In order to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, mdical professionals have to conduct a long series of tests to assess a patient’s memory impairment and cognitive skills, functional abilities, and behavioral changes. They also have to execute costly brain imagining scans and even, sometimes, invasive cerebral spinal fluid tests to rule out other diseases. The process is laborious at best — and subjective at worst.
A new discovery by Tel Aviv University, Technion and Harvard University researchers takes the medical community a leap forward in proposes a new biomarker for cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease: The activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP), whos levels can be easily monitored in routine blood tests. The study also found that ADNP levels tested in the blood correlate with higher IQ in healthy older adults.
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The researchers now plan to move forward into clinical trials in order to create a pre-Alzheimer’s test that will help to tailor potential preventative treatments.
Significant increases in ADNP RNA levels were observed in patients ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s dementia. ADNP levels tested in plasma and serum samples, as well as white blood cell RNA levels, distinguished among cognitively normal elderly, MCI, and Alzheimer’s dementia participants.
The investigators analyzed blood samples taken from 42 healthy adults, MCI patients, and Alzheimer’s disease patients at Rambam Medical Center in Israel. After comparing the ADNP expression in the blood samples, the researchers prepared plasma samples and once again compared the protein levels.
“This study has provided the basis to detect this biomarker in routine, non-invasive blood tests, and it is known that early intervention is invaluable to Alzheimer’s patients, ” said Prof. Ilana Gozes. “We are now planning to take these preliminary findings forward into clinical trials — to create a pre-Alzheimer’s test that will help to tailor potential preventative treatments.”
This new research is based on Prof. Gozes’ earlier investigation of neuronal plasticity and nerve cell protection at the molecular, cellular, and system level, and her discovery of novel families of proteins, including ADNP, associated with cross-communication among neural nerve cells and their support cells. “Interestingly, we also found that the more ADNP in the serum, the higher the person’s IQ level, ” Gozes said.
The research was led by Tel Aviv University‘s Prof. Illana Gozes, and spearheaded by Dr. Gad Marshall, Dr. Aaron Schultz, and Prof. Reisa Sperling of Harvard University, along with Prof. Judith Aharon-Peretz of Rambam Medical Center and the Technion Institute of Technology.