Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Blood tests may hold clues to pace of Alzheimer's disease progression

Date:
October 7, 2011
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Summary:
Researchers say they may have found a way to predict how quickly patients with Alzheimer's disease will lose cognitive function by looking at ratios of two fatty compounds in their blood. The finding, they say, could provide useful information to families and caregivers, and might also suggest treatment targets for this heartbreaking and incurable neurodegenerative disorder.

A team of scientists, led by Johns Hopkins researchers, may have found a way to predict how quickly patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) will lose cognitive function by looking at ratios of two fatty compounds in their blood. The finding, they say, could provide useful information to families and caregivers, and might also suggest treatment targets for this heartbreaking and incurable neurodegenerative disorder.

Related Articles


Past research has shown that cognitive function declines at different rates in AD patients, with roughly one-third not declining at all in five years, one-third declining at a moderate rate, and the other third declining quickly. Accurately predicting the pace of cognitive decline would help patients and caregivers better prepare and, if treatments are developed, help doctors aggressively target those whose descent into dementia is likely to be accelerated. Currently there are no predictably effective treatments that prevent, slow or stop AD, though the researchers caution that more studies need to be done before their blood fat test proves its value.

"We're confident there's a relationship between these lipids and AD progression, but this work is not yet ready to be used clinically," according to Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of an article about the work published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Mielke's team analyzed data from 120 probable Alzheimer's patients at the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, measuring a variety of fats found in the patients' blood, as well as conducting cognitive assessments during an average of 4.2 visits over 2.3 years. The researchers found that the higher the level of plasma sphingomyelins and the lower the level of ceramide -- two types of fat found in cells throughout the body -- the slower the progression of the dementia of Alzheimer's disease.

Although the researchers emphasize that the link between the fats and AD is not well understood, ceramides are involved in inflammation and cell death. If there are fewer of these cell-killing ceramides circulating -- which in turn may be killing off fewer important brain cells -- the result may be slower disease progression, Mielke says. Meanwhile, a previous study by Mielke and her team showed that higher ceramide levels were associated with greater shrinkage of the brain's memory center over one year in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Basic science data has also linked ceramide levels and levels of the protein amyloid beta, the accumulation of which has been tied to Alzheimer's disease.

If the blood fat ratios do turn out to be important, Mielke says there may be ways to use this discovery to slow cognitive decline. For example, an enzyme known as sphingomyelinase metabolizes sphingomyelins into ceramides. It is possible, she says, that if a sphingomyelinase inhibitor were used to slow down the process of breaking down sphingomyelins into ceramides, the progression of the disease could be interrupted.

Though much research has been done to find ways to halt Alzheimer's, so far the only approved therapy treats symptoms of cognitive decline in some patients for a short period of time. It does nothing to alter the course of the disease.

"And none of the other compounds in clinical trials to date are showing any benefits," says Mielke, who is also an associate consultant in the division of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic. "Perhaps we need to shift our focus. The answers could be in these lipids, which can be measured in the blood."

Other Hopkins researchers contributing to this work include Norman J. Haughey, Ph.D.; Vera Venkata Ratnam Bandaru, Ph.D.; and Constantine G. Lyketsos, M.D.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michelle M. Mielke, Norman J. Haughey, Veera Venkata Ratnam Bandaru, Danielle D. Weinberg, Eveleen Darby, Noman Zaidi, Valory Pavlik, Rachelle S. Doody and Constantine G. Lyketsos. Plasma Sphingomyelins are Associated with Cognitive Progression in Alzheimer's Disease. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2011; DOI: 10.3233/JAD-2011-110405

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Blood tests may hold clues to pace of Alzheimer's disease progression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005111817.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. (2011, October 7). Blood tests may hold clues to pace of Alzheimer's disease progression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005111817.htm
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Blood tests may hold clues to pace of Alzheimer's disease progression." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005111817.htm (accessed December 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Weirdest Health Studies Of 2014

The Weirdest Health Studies Of 2014

Newsy (Dec. 27, 2014) One of this year's strangest studies found people prefer painful electric shocks to being alone with their thoughts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Healthier Lifestyles Could Prevent 4 In 10 Cancer Cases

Healthier Lifestyles Could Prevent 4 In 10 Cancer Cases

Newsy (Dec. 26, 2014) If patients had led healthier lifestyles, Cancer Research UK found about 40 percent of cancer cases could have been prevented. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
When Healthy Eating Becomes Dangerous

When Healthy Eating Becomes Dangerous

Newsy (Dec. 26, 2014) Experts say fad diets can lead to orthorexia, a disorder that can cause physical and emotional distress. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Issues New Warning About Pure Caffeine Powder Usage

FDA Issues New Warning About Pure Caffeine Powder Usage

Newsy (Dec. 24, 2014) The FDA cites two deaths this year linked to pure caffeine powder as warnings of the potentially fatal substance. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins