According to an article published in The Jerusalem Post, researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU), Rambam Medical Center, and Harvard University have found a biological blood marker associated with Alzheimer’s disease that has the potential to be used as a tool to administer an effective diagnostic blood test for dementia. TAU head researcher Professor Illana Gozes says, “We hope that in the future, it will be possible to use our discovery to develop a simple blood test for this serious disease even in its early stages.”
Detecting Alzheimer’s disease is currently a long and complicated process. Most physicians administer subjective memory tests that evaluate cognitive and functional abilities, as well as behavioral changes. In certain cases, highly costly brain scans are administered that are not currently available in all countries. Gozes, who is from the department of human molecular genetics and biochemistry at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and of the Sagol School of Neuroscience, notes that occasionally, invasive tests that examine a patient’s brain and spinal fluids are given.
This new discovery was recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and could have a huge impact in the Alzheimer’s diagnosing process. The blood of dementia patients is characterized by a certain concentration of the biological marker. The marker is a protein called ADNP that was discovered in Gozes’ research lab fifteen years ago. Gozes says, “In previous studies, we showed that the protein and its derivatives protect the brain from various diseases. In the present study, we decided to first examine whether there is a link between ADNP expression in the patient’s blood and cognitive abilities.”
There were three parts to the study. In the first, the IQ of a group of 40 educated and healthy seniors in Boston were tested and their blood samples were given to TAU’s lab. The initial part of the study found that the higher the older adult participant’s IQ, the higher the amount of ADNP was in their blood. In the second part of the study held in Boston, the same group of participants underwent brain scans for amyloid plaque. Amyloid plaque is the protein that accumulates in the brain and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Gozes says that sometimes this plaque is also found in smaller levels in the brains of healthy individuals.
Gozes says, “We sought to compare the amount of amyloid in the brain and the expression of ADNP in their blood.” TAU researchers conducted this process and found a significant relationship between the two. They found that higher levels of amyloid plaque in the brain were associated with lower levels of RNA genetic material associated with ADNP. This relationship found between ADNP levels and the way it is expressed in the blood and a person’s cognitive functioning shows that the better a person’s cognitive abilities, the higher the ADNP levels are in their blood.
The third part of the study compared three groups: the first had 17 people with dementia, the second had 11 people who were healthy and had normal cognition, and the third had 15 people with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers found that in the white blood cells of participants with Alzheimer’s disease, there was eight times the amount of RNA expressing ADNP compared to the other groups. This clearly confirmed that there was a biological marker for Alzheimer’s disease that could be used for a simple blood test to diagnose the disease. Such a test has the potential to detect the disease early in order to administer preventive treatment that slows the progression of the disease.