A number of molecules formed from cholesterol and found in the blood could be linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease according to new research from King’s College London published in Translational Psychiatry today (Tuesday 13 January).
The study, funded by Alzheimer’s Society, looked at fatty molecules in blood samples from 124 individuals including 36 with Alzheimer’s disease and 48 with Mild Cognitive Impairment. The researchers used a battery of tests to analyse the samples and identified 10 molecules whose levels in the blood predicted Alzheimer’s with an accuracy of 79 per cent. Six of the ten molecules identified were by-products formed from the breakdown of cholesterol in the body, though the researchers found no overall correlation between cholesterol in blood and Alzheimer’s disease.
These molecules have not been linked to Alzheimer’s disease before, and this discovery highlights the potentially important role of how the body processes cholesterol. This insight could lead to new targets for future drug treatments of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and is characterised by the build-up of plaques in the brain which lead to the death of brain cells. There are currently only four available treatments which provide time-limited relief from some symptoms, but no cure.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘Finding a way to detect Alzheimer’s before the disease takes hold would provide a huge step forward in the way we carry out research into the condition. This interesting study identifies a number of molecules connected to cholesterol which weren’t previously thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s and could be another piece in the jigsaw of helping us understand the condition.
While this vital research could open new avenues to find treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, the link between these molecules and dementia isn’t accurate enough to be used as a test. Alzheimer’s Society has committed at least £100m to dementia research over the next decade and we need to see even more investment into research like this to help identify people at risk of dementia early on in order to develop treatments which could stop the condition in its tracks.’
Dr Petroula Proitsi, Alzheimer’s Society Research Fellow at the Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, and lead author of the study said:
‘The results of this study are very interesting as the identified metabolites are biochemically related to metabolites previously shown to be associated with Alzheimer’s. It will be very interesting to see whether changes in these metabolites are also associated with disease initiation and progression.
‘However, we would like to stress that these findings need to be expanded and replicated in larger cohorts. The false positive rate of 23.1 per cent would mean that using these molecules for diagnosis would see nearly a quarter of healthy people wrongly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This highlights that these molecules cannot be used for diagnostic purposes and that the important message from this study is the identification of new interesting lipid molecules to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease’.
Alzheimer’s Society funds research into the cause, cure, care and prevention of dementia. Our research strategy will see Alzheimer’s Society spend £100 million on dementia research over the next decade.