Scientists find new way to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s disease

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In a study from the University of New Mexico and elsewhere, scientists found a unique biomarker that could lead to new diagnostic tests to improve the detection of incipient Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear.

They identified a new protein in the cerebrospinal fluid that can reliably detect endothelial injury—damage to the cells lining the tiny blood vessels in the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease.

Using this biomarker, the team found that endothelial injury is an important contributor to cognitive impairment in even the earliest pre-symptomatic stages of the disease.

The findings offer a glimmer of hope to more than six million Americans who are living with Alzheimer’s, including more than 43,000 New Mexicans aged 65 and older, as they could spur further research for drug interventions to potentially prevent damage to the brain endothelium.

In the study, the team examined 700 cognitively normal participants who had biomarker evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

They discovered that, compared to controls, their cerebrospinal fluid levels of VEC were elevated in even the stages of Alzheimer’s, before the onset of memory loss.

When combined with established Alzheimer’s biomarkers, like amyloid and tau, cerebrospinal fluid levels of VEC improved the ability of these markers to detect early Alzheimer’s pathology.

The study suggests that endothelial damage plays an important role very early in the course of Alzheimer’s disease, and is directly linked to memory, cognitive functions and synaptic plasticity.

Additionally, researchers found that VEC levels correlated with cognitive outcomes to a similar extent as amyloid and tau in these early preclinical stages, even when adjusting for imaging measures of small vessel disease.

The research suggests that not only do toxic levels of amyloid and abnormal accumulations of tau cause endothelial injury, but that the opposite is also true: an increase in amyloid and tau levels could be due to endothelial injury.

The team hypothesizes that some form of microcirculatory failure happens that starts in the capillaries, where endothelial cells are damaged.

This work could spur further research for drug intervention in preventing and/or healing endothelial injury.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about the cause of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists find a new method to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about brain health., please see recent studies about Strawberries could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and results showing that flavonoid-rich foods could improve survival in Parkinson’s disease.

The study was conducted by Rawan Tarawneh et al and published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

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