Medical researchers in the UK and Australia have identified a new marker that could support the search for new preventive and therapeutic treatments for dementia.
In an innovative new study, coordinated by Flinders University and the University of Aberdeen, researchers investigated the role of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), a blood marker associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in epidemiological studies, on temporal changes in cognition in an established human aging cohort (Aberdeen’s birth cohort of 1936).
Unlike other human aging study groups, participants in the 1936 Aberdeen birth cohort were also tested for childhood intelligence at the age of 11, a key predictor of intelligence and health in old age.
Research has focused mainly on a number of anomalies found in the diseased brain. However, observational studies and clinical trials targeting these alterations have been disappointing, suggesting the urgent need to better understand the causes of dementia and identify new disease markers.
In the first longitudinal study, ADMA levels measured in 2000 (at the age of 63 of the participants) were associated with the decline in cognitive performance assessments after four years, says Professor Arduino Mangoni of the University of Flinders.
“Therefore the results of this study suggest that ADMA, an easily measurable marker of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk, could be an early indicator of cognitive decline in old age – and perhaps dementia,” says Professor Mangoni, head of clinical pharmacology at Flinders University.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by rapid cognitive decline and significant disability in old age, currently affects more than 342,000 Australians. This number is expected to increase to 400,000 in less than a decade.
The causes of late-onset AD are largely unknown and, despite extensive research, there is still no clear consensus on robust biomarkers for predicting disease onset and progression and response to therapies.
British researcher Deborah Malden says the results of the new study should be approached with caution and need further investigation.
“We should be cautious about emphasizing the results with the results of the 93 participants here,” he says.
“We would like to know more after repeating this study in a large-scale cohort, potentially tens of thousands of individuals, and perhaps a genetic study on MR (Mendelian randomization),” says Dr. Malden.
However, if the results of the initial study are verified in large-scale tests, the researchers hope that the results may pave the way for stratification of dementia risk across the population and perhaps the future development of therapeutic strategies to reduce ADMA levels and / or slow down the progression of cognitive decline in old age.
The new article “Asymmetric dimethylarginine circulation and cognitive decline: a 4-year follow-up study of the 1936 Aberdeen birth cohort” by Deborah E. Malden, Arduino A. Mangoni, Richard J. Woodman, Frank Thies, Chris McNeil , Alison D Murray and Roy L. Soiza were published in the International journal of geriatric psychiatry DOI: 10.1002 / gps. 5355
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