Scientists find a new way to predict future dementia, Alzheimer’s risk

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In a new study from the Johns Hopkins, researchers found that the development of dementia late in life, often from Alzheimer’s disease, is linked to abnormal blood levels of dozens of proteins up to five years earlier.

The researchers linked abnormal blood levels of 38 proteins to higher risks of developing Alzheimer’s within five years. Of those 38 proteins, 16 appeared to predict Alzheimer’s risk two decades in advance.

Although most of these risk markers may be only incidental byproducts of the slow disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s, the analysis pointed to high levels of one protein, SVEP1, as a likely causal contributor to that disease process.

The researchers’ initial analysis covered blood samples from more than 4,800 late-middle-aged participants.

They analyzed the results and found 38 proteins whose abnormal levels were significantly associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the five years following the blood draw.

They then measured protein levels from more than 11,000 blood samples taken from much younger participants.

The team found that abnormal levels of 16 of the 38 previously identified proteins were linked to the development of Alzheimer’s in the nearly two decades.

To verify these findings in a different patient population, the scientists reviewed the results of an earlier analysis of blood samples.

That study had assayed proteins including 13 of the 16 proteins identified in the ARIC analyses. Of those 13 proteins, six were again associated with Alzheimer’s risk over a roughly 10-year follow-up period.

In a further analysis, the researchers compared the identified proteins with data from past studies of genetic links to Alzheimer’s.

The comparison suggested strongly that one of the identified proteins, SVEP1, is not just an incidental marker of Alzheimer’s risk but is involved in triggering or driving the disease.

SVEP1 is a protein whose normal functions remain somewhat mysterious, although in a study published earlier this year it was linked to the thickened artery condition, atherosclerosis, which underlies heart attacks and strokes.

Other proteins associated with Alzheimer’s risk in the new study included several key immune proteins—which is consistent with decades of findings linking Alzheimer’s to abnormally intense immune activity in the brain.

The researchers plan to continue using techniques like SomaScan to analyze proteins in banked blood samples from long-term studies to identify potential Alzheimer’s-triggering pathways—a potential strategy to suggest new approaches for Alzheimer’s treatments.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about these common jobs can increase dementia risk by more than half and findings of a new drug to treat Lewy body dementia.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, please see recent studies about these personality traits may help you prevent dementia and results showing that many dementia cases can be prevented by avoiding these 12 things.

The study is published in Nature Aging. One author of the study is Josef Coresh, MD, Ph.D., MHS.

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