Blood proteins may predict dementia 10 years early, study finds

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Researchers identified future dementia cases in more than 1,400 out of approximately 52,000 samples collected

Blood proteins may predict dementia 10 years early, study finds

A recent report by researchers from the U.K. and China revealed that an analysis of frozen blood samples has unearthed a wealth of proteins that could potentially forecast various forms of dementia over a decade before diagnosis.  

This study, featured in the journal Nature Aging, is part of an ongoing effort across multiple research teams to pinpoint individuals at risk for dementia through a straightforward blood test, a development that many experts believe will hasten the creation of new treatments. Presently, brain scans can identify abnormal levels of beta amyloid protein many years prior to the onset of Alzheimer's dementia, but these tests are expensive and frequently not covered by insurance. 

Dr. Suzanne Schindler, an Alzheimer's researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who was not part of the study, suggested that blood tests may be developed in the next decade to forecast the likelihood of developing dementia. However, people at a higher risk may struggle to figure out how to react. 

The lead researcher, Jian-Feng Feng from Fudan University in Shanghai, emphasized the importance of such examinations in aging societies like China. He also mentioned ongoing discussions regarding the potential commercialization of a blood test based on their findings. 

In their investigation, scientists from the University of Warwick and Fudan University analyzed 52,645 blood samples from the U.K.'s Biobank research database, gathered between 2006 and 2010 from individuals without any indications of dementia at the time. 

Out of these samples, 1,417 individuals later developed Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, or dementia of any origin. The team identified common protein patterns in these individuals, discovering 1,463 proteins linked to dementia, which were then categorized based on their predictive potential for dementia. 

Individuals with heightened levels of the proteins GFAP, NEFL, GDF15, and LTBP2 in their blood consistently exhibited a higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, or dementia from any cause. Those with increased GFAP levels were 2.32 times more prone to dementia, confirming previous findings from smaller studies that highlighted the role of this protein. 

The researchers emphasized that their findings have not undergone independent validation. 

One protein, neurofilament light, demonstrated strong predictive capabilities for dementia and is already utilized in clinical settings for diagnosing and monitoring various conditions such as multiple sclerosis, as mentioned in an email by Schindler. 


Source: Reuters

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