Could our blood reveal our future dementia risk?

After analyzing data from eight large studies, researchers have identified certain molecules in the blood that might serve as early biomarkers for the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

test tubes with blood

Our blood may hold early biomarkers for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The new findings — which are published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia — are thought to be the first to suggest that higher levels of branched-chain amino acids in a person’s blood could be a marker for a lower risk of developing dementia.

Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients that the body needs and gets from protein-rich foods such as legumes and meat.

In their report, co-senior study author Sudha Seshadri — a professor of neurology at the University of Texas, San Antonio — and colleagues explain that scientists are starting to realize that dementia is not a straightforward disease.

In fact, they say that there is an increasing need to address its prevention and treatment with a “multipronged approach.”

Traditionally, researchers have mainly looked for answers in the brain — where, for instance, some hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the main types of dementia, are found in the form of faulty tau and amyloid proteins.

Now, however, more of the searching has widened to include other parts of the body, such as the bloodstream, which has an intimate relationship with the brain.

“It is now recognized,” Prof. Seshadri notes, “that we need to look beyond the traditionally studied amyloid and tau pathways and understand the entire spectrum of pathology involved in persons who present with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Dementia is a brain-wasting disease that gradually robs us of our ability to remember, think, reason, communicate, and take care of ourselves. Alzheimer’s is the most common form.


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