Are we close to early detection of Alzheimer’s disease?

Are we close to early detection of Alzheimer’s disease?

The gradual increase in the elderly population and the increase in life expectancy inevitably leads to higher rates of diseases that we know are age-related, namely Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions have three common denominators: deterioration of cells and tissues due to the concentration of damage inside and outside these cells; The buildup of dysfunctional cells that we know as aging or senescence and the increase in markers that produce chronic inflammation.

In practically all diseases associated with aging, we find these three factors: Which, at the same time, are interconnected and nourished.

In order to be able to anticipate the emergence of these diseases and take necessary precautions or counteract treatments that reduce their development, we need to identify compounds or activities that reliably warn us that something is going wrong. That’s what we call it Vital signs.

What is a vital indicator?

Biomarkers are substances found naturally in our bodies. But if their levels rise or fall, this indicates that something is not going well.

For example, The Spanish government has recently increased the range of basic analyzes that must be performed with heel testing. This test simply consists of analyzing a series of substances in the baby’s blood – biomarkers – which will tell us whether the metabolism is normal or there is an abnormality. Obviously, if we know that there may be a problem just born, we can take the necessary measures as quickly as possible and prevent damage.

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Other well-known biomarkers are blood glucose levels for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which is very common in older people. An increase in glucose despite the presence of insulin indicates that our muscle and fat cells are unable to respond to this hormone. Then we develop one Type 2 diabetes Age-related.

Mechanisms have also been designed for early detection of the presence of cancer. For example, Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) It is produced by normal prostate cells, but is more commonly produced by cancer cells. If the amount in the blood increases, this may indicate a cancerous process. In the case of colon cancer, the equivalent screening is no Detection of blood in the stool.

In fact, tools for early cancer detection are currently being created apace through so-called liquid biopsies, which look for biomarkers of cancerous processes.

Can we find biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease?

Everything described above refers to pathological processes that produce recognizable effects that can be detected by metabolites or proteins that are abnormally abundant in the blood. However, it is more complex to identify slower processes that affect very narrow organs, such as the central nervous system.

The central nervous system is separated from the bloodstream by a series of cells in the vascular system and the nervous system itself that control the passage of substances from the blood into the nervous tissue and vice versa. We know this system as Blood-brain barrier.

As its name suggests, this barrier is very tight against the smuggling of narcotic substances and controls everything that passes through it, unless it is damaged and loses its function, as we know happens in… Neurodegenerative processes. This deterioration may cause proteins in the brain to travel into the bloodstream and be detected as biomarkers of damage.

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In fact, this is what studies like the one presented recently reveal A group of scientists from Shanghai University. Their results show increases in proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease such as beta-amyloid and tau proteins, glial fibrillary acidic protein or light neurofilament protein.

The problem is that these proteins appear in the blood when cognitive impairment has already begun, progressed and has clear symptoms. That is, when it is already too late.

Searching for signs of initial cases of the disease

We need to discover biomarkers that help us treat the disease early, because lifestyle habits, physical and social activity prevent its deterioration. Recently, our research group has shown that loss of executive ability—that is, impairment in decision making—precedes… Cognitive impairment.

In the same context, a recent study revealed: University of Toronto It has been shown that changes in speech speed, due to… Not being able to find the right wordThey can be indicators of the beginning of a decline in brain health.

Therefore, specific tests aimed at finding impairment in decision-making and speech may be important to act in the early stages and slow the progression of the disease.

In addition, in recent years it has been shown that cognitive impairment is associated with a neuroinflammatory process in which a series of inflammatory cytokines and microglial activating factors are increased. Identifying these cytokines may be crucial to taking action before neuroinflammation leads to nerve cell destruction.

On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly clear that avoiding damage to the blood-brain barrier is the key to reducing and slowing cognitive decline. Molecules essential for metabolism and antioxidant systems such as coenzyme Q10, which prevents deterioration of the vascular system, have shown their effectiveness. And its relationship to maintaining executive and cognitive abilities in the elderly.

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Early detection of cognitive impairment is a daunting task, but combining different diagnostic approaches – which include cognitive and behavioral testing along with biomarker analysis – could lead us to treatments that reduce the risk and slow this decline during aging.

(This article was originally published on Conversation. You can read the original text here)

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