A new molecular test which can indicate how well a person is ageing could be used to predict those most at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published today (Monday 7 September) in the journal Genome Biology.
Researchers used a process called RNA-profiling to measure and compare gene expression in thousands of human tissue samples. By comparing tissue from healthy 25 year olds and healthy 65 years olds they identified a pattern of 150 genes that could be used as a marker of healthy ageing.
This ‘healthy ageing gene score’ was then calculated for blood samples from people with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy people of the same age. Those with Alzheimer’s disease had significantly lower gene scores than the healthy controls, suggesting that this test has potential to identify people at a greater risk of developing the disease.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Given the need for early intervention, many of the current drugs in development for Alzheimer’s are being tested in the earliest stages of the disease, sometimes even before symptoms begin. With further development this research could help in our quest to find new treatments for the condition, by identifying people who are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease so that they can participate in clinical trials.
“Previous studies have identified sets of markers in the blood of people with Alzheimer’s but they have not yet been accurate enough to be used regularly in research or in the clinic. This study takes a novel approach, using healthy older people to identify a pattern of ‘healthy ageing’ markers and then showing that people with Alzheimer’s deviate from this pattern.
“People shouldn’t take these findings to mean that most cases of Alzheimer’s are inherited as this is not true. The markers identified in this study are affected by the complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors and we’ll need further research to fully understand what they are telling us about the disease process.
“We do urgently need better ways to accurately diagnosis Alzheimer’s and other dementias and need to see more research like this to ultimately develop new tests that can be used in the clinic.”