Research finds potential early biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder affecting millions globally. It is marked by the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, leading to cognitive decline, memory loss, and other severe neurological symptoms.

In a significant breakthrough, researchers from the University of California San Diego have identified a potential early biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease.

They discovered that elevated levels of an enzyme called PHGDH in the blood of older adults might indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s, even before cognitive symptoms appear.

PHGDH, a key enzyme in producing the amino acid serine, is vital for protein synthesis and maintaining brain health. The study found that increased PHGDH levels in Alzheimer’s patients suggest a higher rate of serine production in the brain.

The research team analyzed genetic data from post-mortem human brains, involving four different cohorts of 40 to 50 individuals each, aged 50 and above. These cohorts included Alzheimer’s patients, asymptomatic individuals, and healthy controls.

Consistently, PHGDH expression was higher in Alzheimer’s patients and asymptomatic individuals compared to healthy controls, with the highest levels found in those with more advanced disease. This pattern was also seen in two different mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, the study revealed that higher PHGDH levels in the brain were associated with worse cognitive test scores. These findings have significant implications, particularly concerning the use of serine supplements as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

While clinical trials are ongoing to test serine treatments in older adults with cognitive decline, the researchers caution against such supplements, given the increased PHGDH expression in Alzheimer’s patients.

The research team previously identified PHGDH as a potential blood biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease. The current study strengthens this claim, suggesting that PHGDH levels in the blood could serve as a diagnostic tool to identify individuals at risk of developing the condition.

This study underscores the importance of PHGDH as a biomarker for Alzheimer’s and highlights the need for caution regarding serine supplements.

Further research is required to fully understand the roles of PHGDH and serine in Alzheimer’s development and to explore their potential as therapeutic targets.

Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, several strategies may help reduce the risk of developing the condition:

Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity is linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, promotes the production of new brain cells, and reduces inflammation, all of which may help prevent the disease.

Maintain a Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help reduce Alzheimer’s risk. A Mediterranean-style diet, which includes plenty of plant-based foods and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, may be particularly beneficial.

Stay Mentally Active: Engaging in activities like reading, puzzles, and socializing keeps the brain stimulated, helping build new neural connections and potentially delaying cognitive decline.

Manage Chronic Conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Managing these conditions through lifestyle changes and medication may help reduce the risk.

This study, led by Sheng Zhong and published in Cell Metabolism, represents a critical step forward in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and developing early diagnostic tools and effective treatments.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and blood pressure problem at night may increase Alzheimer’s risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and epilepsy drug may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

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