Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease that affects over 26 million worldwide and is associated with memory problems, disorientation, and sudden mood swings. While there isn't a cure for the condition yet, knowing how quickly a patient's condition is deteriorating could help tailor treatments to support their individual needs.
Now, researchers are one step closer to predicting Alzheimer's progression based on the expression of specific inflammatory proteins.
In a research study featured in the journal Nature Communications, neuroscientists detailed how they collected cerebrospinal fluid samples from a cohort of over 380 participants diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The team took a closer look at the proteomic profiles of these samples, honing in on a panel of 15 proteins known to be involved in inflammatory pathways.
The scientists identified a distinctive pattern linking protein levels with the speed of Alzheimer's progression: the presence of TNFR1 corresponded to a more gradual decline during the very early stages of the disease. On the other hand, another protein known as TREM2 was detected in the later stages of Alzheimer's, when symptoms such as dementia tend to escalate quickly.
Testing for these proteins in spinal fluid samples is particularly beneficial for patients with an Alzheimer's diagnosis who are typically subjected to a battery of neurological tests, including multiple PET scans.
According to the study's lead investigator, William Hu, this is one of the pioneering studies demonstrating how physicians may gain deeper insights into how Alzheimer's will play out for their patients while reducing the need for multiple tests.
"For many years, the ability to identify the slower or faster progression of Alzheimer's disease eluded the medical community," said Hu. "We hope our study will provide many families with the ease and ability to make certain plans for their loved ones and to bring some equity when undergoing tests during the initial diagnosis of the disease."