A New Biomarker for Alzheimer’s May Help Diagnose the Disease Before Symptoms Appear

New Biomarker for Alzheimer's

Currently, it is challenging to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the asymptomatic stage before symptoms appear. Scientists at the University of Barcelona in Spain have discovered a biomarker in the asymptomatic phases of the disease.

Alzheimer’s currently has no known cure, but a recently identified biomarker may be able to identify the illness before symptoms manifest. This could allow researchers to implement mitigating treatments and examine the disease’s pathogenesis in more detail.

José Antonio del Río, PhD, group leader at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), professor at the Faculty of Biology and a member of the Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Barcelona and the co-lead author of a recent study, stated that one of the significant issues in the study of Alzheimer’s, or dementia in general, is that by the time a patient arrives for a consultation, they have already developed symptoms, most commonly mild cognitive impairment, indicating that the development of dementia has started.

Thus, it is crucial to search for markers that can point to the start of these processes before the symptoms emerge. The biomarker del Rio refers to the distinct, quantifiable feature of the body that can help identify illness or normal health processes.

Del Río and his colleagues have discovered a novel biomarker in the asymptomatic (symptom-free) phases of Alzheimer’s. At this stage, a person’s brain is undergoing biochemical changes but is not exhibiting any cognitive symptoms yet.

The journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular Basis of Disease published the recent research [1]

A New Biomarker to Predict Alzheimer’s

The new biomarker revealed by scientists in this study is a molecule called miR-519a-3p, a type of microRNA that has a direct connection to the expression of the cellular prion protein. The tiny, cell-surface glycoprotein known as the prion protein, or PrPC, is well-known for its crucial involvement in the development of the neurodegenerative conditions known as prion diseases [2].

MicroRNA molecules are small RNA fragments that play a significant role in gene expression by silencing it at the mRNA level. In this manner, they regulate the amounts of several proteins in various cell types. Del Río stated that there is strong evidence that alterations in these ‘controllers’ expressions can influence processes like cancer and other diseases.

Researchers analyzed the levels of the biomarker in samples from Parkinson’s disease and other tauopathies (neurological conditions in which aberrant tau protein accumulate  in the brain) to see whether miR-519a-3p was truly a biomarker for Alzheimer’s and not other neurodegenerative disorders. According to scientists, this verified that the alterations in miR-519a-3p were unique to Alzheimer’s.

Del Río explained that neurologists must identify the pathology they are dealing with. A patient may experience comorbidity processes, where they can have many pathologies at the same time [3].

The research team aimed to identify a biomarker that would only change in Alzheimer’s and not other illnesses. It is relevant in developing specific signatures for each disorder to improve diagnosis accuracy.

How Novel Biomarker Might Enable an Early Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Although there is currently no known treatment for Alzheimer’s, prior research indicates that treating symptoms and delaying the illness’s progression can be accomplished with an early diagnosis.

Del Río stated that until now, the data have only been acquired at the brain level. However, blood also contains this miRNA. The major challenge is creating the technology required to identify small changes in hospital samples that would indicate the early onset of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers did not rule out merging these findings with their other ongoing studies on various miRNAs to create an early disease signature.

He added that now they need to work with patient cohorts and clinical groups to develop, modify, and improve approaches for detecting these alterations during the disease’s asymptomatic stages.

Alzheimer’s Research Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We provide the latest information and news about the illness and helpful tips to help caregivers cope with their daily caregiving challenges. We realize the most important thing that a caregiver needs is financial assistance. Therefore, we provide grants to caregivers to ease their financial burden. Caregivers can apply for grants here: Alzheimer’s Grant Application

You can also help caregivers in their endeavor by donating as much as possible: Donation To Alzheimer’s Research Associations.

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