Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition that affects millions of people globally.
It is the leading cause of dementia, and the onset of brain function changes can occur 10-20 years before clinical symptoms appear.
There is a critical need to identify early biomarkers that can predict future cognitive decline, and researchers at the Karolinska Institute have made some exciting progress in this area.
Astrocytes are promising targets for the identification of early markers of Alzheimer’s disease, as they respond quickly to disease progression.
Astrocytes are crucial cells in the brain that help control a wide range of functions necessary for optimal brain functioning.
Importantly, they respond to brain injury and disease state through a specific defense process called reactive astrogliosis.
The role of astrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease is still unclear, but recent studies suggest that reactive astrogliosis may precede other well-known pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, such as amyloid deposition and tau tangles.
Therefore, it is critical to identify new astrocytic biomarkers to deepen our understanding of reactive astrogliosis in the Alzheimer’s disease continuum.
In this context, the crosstalk between cholinergic signaling and reactive astrogliosis may hold the key to understanding the early responses of glial cells to brain pathology and injury.
The cholinergic hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease paved the way for the development of cholinesterase inhibitors, which are the gold-standard therapy for the disease.
In a new study at Karolinska Institute, researchers explored the role of the astrocytic α7-subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (α7nAChRs) in Alzheimer’s disease pathology and biomarkers.
They discussed the probable involvement of astrocytic α7nAChRs in early amyloid pathology and suggested several new pathways of AD pathogenesis.
Based on these pathways, the researchers proposed that astrocytic α7nAChRs could be an important bridge linking reactive astrogliosis, cholinergic signaling, and the amyloid cascade hypotheses in Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, targeting astrocytic α7nAChRs as a novel early biomarker with different imaging PET-tracers could be a game-changer in the clinical setting for future Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic and interventions.
This paper’s findings could open up new avenues for identifying novel biomarkers for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and new targets for disease-modifying treatments.
This could have broad clinical implications, encompassing other neurodegenerative disorders in which reactive astrogliosis is also observed.
The researchers have already put this new hypothesis to the test with their novel α7nAChRs PET-tracer KIn-83, which has been extensively characterized in postmortem human brains and is soon to reach the first-in-man PET studies.
This exciting work has the potential to revolutionize Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment and improve the lives of millions of people affected by this devastating condition.
While there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are some steps individuals can take to potentially reduce their risk of developing the disease or delay its onset.
Some ways to potentially prevent Alzheimer’s include:
Maintaining a healthy diet: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Staying physically active: Regular physical exercise has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Engaging in mentally stimulating activities: Staying mentally active by doing puzzles, reading, learning new skills, and engaging in other mentally challenging activities has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Getting enough sleep: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Managing chronic health conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the root cause of the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s, and the 5 steps to protect against Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that a high-fiber diet could help lower the dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.
The study was conducted by Igor Fontana et al and published in Nature Reviews Neurology.
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