New method can detect dementia 15 years before diagnosis

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In new research, scientists have made a significant advance in the early detection of dementia, identifying a way to predict the condition up to 15 years before its clinical diagnosis.

This study, the largest of its kind, has highlighted the role of specific proteins in the blood, known as biomarkers, in accurately forecasting the onset of dementia.

The team, comprising experts from The University of Warwick and Fudan University in Shanghai, analyzed blood samples from a staggering 52,645 participants.

These individuals were part of the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants.

The blood samples, collected from 2006 to 2010, were analyzed years later, between April 2021 and February 2022. By March 2023, 1,417 of these participants had developed dementia.

The researchers observed that these individuals had distinct patterns of protein biomarkers in their blood, indicating dysregulation long before the clinical symptoms of dementia appeared.

Out of 1,463 proteins examined, the study pinpointed 11 specific proteins that, when combined into a panel, proved highly effective in predicting future cases of dementia.

This predictive accuracy was enhanced further when traditional risk factors such as age, sex, educational level, and genetic predispositions were included, reaching an impressive accuracy of over 90%.

Such a tool holds immense promise for early screening programs, potentially allowing for timely intervention and treatment.

This research is particularly significant in the context of dementia care. Early diagnosis is crucial, as it opens the door to treatments that can slow or even reverse the progression of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, emerging drug technologies, including lecanemab, offer hope, but their effectiveness is contingent on early detection.

Professor Jianfeng Feng, from the University of Warwick, and his colleagues believe that the integration of artificial intelligence with protein analysis could revolutionize precision medicine, especially in identifying individuals at high risk of dementia.

This non-invasive, easily accessible method contrasts sharply with previous approaches, which relied on more invasive procedures like lumbar punctures or expensive imaging techniques, thus representing a significant step forward in dementia research.

The implications of this study are far-reaching, offering a new, efficient, and less invasive way to screen for dementia on a large scale.

By facilitating early detection, this research not only opens new avenues for the development of treatments but also significantly improves the quality of life for individuals at risk of dementia, offering hope to millions of people and their families worldwide.

The findings, published in Nature Aging, mark a milestone in the fight against dementia, highlighting the potential of biomarker-based screening in transforming the landscape of dementia diagnosis and care.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that high-fiber diet could help lower the dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The research findings can be found in Nature Aging.

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