Scientists have discovered chemicals in the blood that can detect dementia two to five years before it manifests, allowing for a simple blood test to diagnose the disease.
The biomarker developed by researchers at the DZNE and the University Medical Centre Gottingen (UMG) is based on detecting microRNA levels, which impact protein synthesis and therefore a fundamental step in every living organism's metabolism.
Because the technology isn't yet ready for widespread use, the researchers want to create a simple, low-cost blood test that can be used in normal medical care to measure dementia risk, comparable to the fast test for SARS-CoV-2.
MicroRNAs might possibly be targets for dementia treatment, according to research published in the scientific journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.
"When dementia symptoms appear, the brain has already been severely injured. Currently, diagnosis occurs far too late for effective therapy to be possible. The chances of favourably affecting the course of dementia rise if it is diagnosed early said "Andre Fischer, professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at UMG.
We need diagnostics that can detect dementia early on and accurately predict the likelihood of subsequent illness. To put it another way, tests that provide an early warning. "We are convinced that the findings of our present study pave the way for such testing," Prof. Fischer continued.
The researchers discovered three microRNAs whose levels were linked to mental function after doing extensive study in people, animals, and cell cultures.
They looked at data from young, cognitively normal adults as well as older people with moderate cognitive impairment.
MicroRNA levels were shown to be connected to mental fitness in healthy people, according to the research.
The individuals scored better in cognition tests when their blood levels were lower. In mice, this score rose even before the rodents began to exhibit signs of mental impairment, regardless of whether this was due to age or because they acquired symptoms comparable to those seen in Alzheimer's disease.
Within two years, over 90% of individuals with a high level of the blood marker had Alzheimer's disease.
"As a result, we detect elevated blood levels of these three microRNAs as a sign of dementia," Fischer added.
"We anticipate that in people, this biomarker predicts a development that will occur in the next two to five years."