Study reveals novel biomarkers for future dementia risk

March 7, 2018

Participants’ blood samples were drawn years before their dementia diagnosis.

Sudha Seshadri, M.D., founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, is co-leader and senior author on research announced March 6 that identifies novel biomarkers of risk for future dementia.

Dementia is a rising tidal wave of devastation for families and society. Age is the biggest risk factor. Alzheimer’s disease, which is the leading cause of dementia, is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. That figure is expected to triple by 2050.

The discovery is described in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. The study analyzed small molecules called metabolites in blood samples drawn from 22,623 individuals, including 995 who went on to develop dementia. The p

articipants were enrolled in eight research cohorts in five countries.

Associations with lower, higher risk

Sudha Seshadri, M.D.
Sudha Seshadri, M.D.

Researchers found that higher blood concentrations of molecules called branched-chain amino acids were associated with lower risk of future dementia. Another molecule, creatinine, and two very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-specific lipoprotein lipid subclasses also were associated with lower risk of dementia.

One high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and one VLDL lipoprotein subclass were associated with increased dementia risk.

These findings will broaden the search for drug targets in dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease and other subtypes, said Dr. Seshadri, professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio. Formerly of Boston University, Dr. Seshadri is a senior investigator in the long-running Framingham Heart Study and leads the neurology working group within several international consortia.

“It is now recognized that we need to look beyond the traditionally studied amyloid and tau pathways and understand the entire spectrum of pathology involved in persons who present with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” Dr. Seshadri said. “It is exciting to find new biomarkers that can help us identify persons who are at the highest risk of dementia.”

Diagnostic exam

In the future, the Glenn Biggs Institute may investigate the feasibility of developing a diagnostic exam, such as a blood test, to assess each patient’s molecular signature of dementia risk. The signature could include blood concentration of branched-chain amino acids. The altered metabolite signatures were observed years before the diagnosis of dementia when those study participants were healthy, Dr. Seshadri said. If a test were to become available, therapy could be initiated earlier.

To read the full article, visit the UT Health San Antonio Newsroom.

Article Categories: News, Research