Researchers have identified a molecule in blood that could help identify people at risk of developing dementia even before symptoms develop. The corresponding study was published in IOS Press.
For the study, the researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults who went on to have PET scans seven years later.
The researchers found that elevated levels of P-tau181 in the initial blood sample were linked to a greater accumulation of beta-amyloid, a biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease, in brain scans.
Further analysis showed that P-tau181 levels in the blood were more predictive than two other currently-used biomarkers for predicting signs of beta-amyloid in brain scans.
The researchers concluded that their results are very promising and may mean that P-tau181 has the potential to help identify people at risk of developing dementia at a very early stage of the disease- before they develop memory difficulties or behavioral changes.
They also say that measuring for P-tau181 could help identify participants for future research, including clinical trials for new dementia therapies. Using P-tau181 could help researchers identify high-risk groups for dementia and test emerging therapies for early treatment.
“We could use this biomarker to identify those at a high risk of developing dementia but still at a very early stage in the disease, when there is still an opportunity to prevent the disease from progressing.,” said Emer McGrath Ph.D., Associate Professor at the College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and lead author of the study.
The researchers also noted that the blood test could easily be carried out in community healthcare settings such as GP practices. This means that blood tests for P-tau181 could one day be used as a population-level screening tool to predict dementia risk in people at any age.