A new diagnostic test could identify Alzheimer’s disease three and a half years before it is actually diagnosed, according to the findings of a recent study.
The new study from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) has devised a blood-based test that might predict the risk of the disease.
This research lends credence to the theory that some components in human blood can affect the neurogenesis process of creating new brain cells.
The hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays an important role in both learning and memory, is the location where this process takes place.
A new test could detect Alzheimer’s early
Previous research has only been able to study neurogenesis in its later phases, after a human’s death, despite the fact that Alzheimer’s disease impairs the development of new brain cells in the hippocampus in its early stages.
Over the course of several years, researchers collected blood samples from 56 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in order to better understand the changes.
This is a condition in which the patient’s memory and other mental abilities gradually decline.
Those who have MCI move to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at a significantly greater rate than the general population does, even though not everyone with MCI will eventually get Alzheimer’s disease.
Over the course of the study’s 56 participants, 36 were subsequently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The researchers discovered that the alterations in neurogenesis occurred around 3.5 years before a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease when they used just the blood samples that were obtained the furthest away from the time that an individual was diagnosed with the condition.
Professor Sandrine Thuret, the study’s lead author from King’s IoPPN, said: “Previous studies have shown that blood from young mice can have a rejuvenating effect on the cognition of older mice by improving hippocampal neurogenesis.
“This gave us the idea of modeling the process of neurogenesis in a dish using human brain cells and human blood.
“In our study, we aimed to use this model to understand the process of neurogenesis and to use changes in this process to predict Alzheimer’s disease and found the first evidence in humans that the body’s circulatory system can have an effect on the brain’s ability to form new cells.”
Reduced cell growth and division
Cell growth and division were shown to be reduced in the blood samples of persons who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The study also found that they caused more apoptotic cell death, which is the process by which cells are programmed to die.
However, the research suggests that enhanced neurogenesis may be an early compensatory mechanism for the loss of brain cells experienced by patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Co-first author Dr. Edina Silajdzic emphasized the significance of the study’s findings, saying, “Our findings are extremely important, potentially allowing us to predict the early onset of Alzheimer’s in a non-invasive fashion.”