Fatty blood could provide early warning sign of Alzheimer's
09:28 GMT, 19 July 2012
Dementia: The degenerative condition affects more than 300,000 people in the UK
High levels of a fat in the blood could provide an early warning of Alzheimer's, researchers say.
A study found that increased levels of ceramide were linked to a higher risk of developing the disease.
Those with the highest levels were ten times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with the lowest, it was revealed.
Researchers tested 99 dementia-free
women in their 70s for the fatty compound, which is associated with
inflammation and cell death.
They were then ranked into three groups depending on their ceramide levels and followed them for over nine years.
Of the 99, 27 developed dementia, of which 18 were diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's.
Those who had the highest levels of
ceramides were ten times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than those
with the lowest levels. Those with middle levels were eight times more at risk.
Dr Michell Mielke, of John Hopkins
University, said: 'Our study identifies this biomarker as a potential
new target for treating or preventing Alzheimer's disease.'
Dr Valory Pavlik, of Houston's Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center, said: 'These findings are important because identifying an accurate biomarker for early Alzheimer's that requires little cost and inconvenience to a patient could help change our focus from treating the disease to preventing or delaying it.
'While a larger, more diverse study is needed to confirm these findings, projections that the global prevalence of Alzheimer's disease will double every 20 years for the foreseeable future have certainly increased the sense of urgency among researchers and health care agencies to identify more effective screening, prevention and treatment strategies.'
Author Terry Pratchett has campaigned for better awareness of Alzheimer's after he announced he had the condition in 2007
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and affects more than 300,000 people in the UK.
It is estimated that it affects on in 14 people over the age of 65. It can be inherited in some cases.
Author Terry Pratchett is a high profile person with the disease.
The condition is caused by parts of the brain wasting away, particularly in the cerebral cortex.
As the grey matter wastes away, clumps of protein, known as ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’, start to form in the brain. The plaques and tangles start to destroy even more brain cells.
Early symptoms include minor memory problems and saying the right words. Later symptoms include severe confusion and dramatic changes of personality. A sufferer can also experience delusions.
There is no cure though there are some treatment that can slow the disease's progression.
The disease can shorten life-expectancy as sufferers can lose interest in eating and maintaining personal hygiene, leading to other illnesses.
The latest research was published in the journal Neurology.