Skin Biopsies May Help Detect And Study Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers in Mexico have suggested that skin biopsies may be useful for helping detect Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The preliminary findings are presented at the American Academy of Neurology 67th Annual Meeting this week.

Doctors from Central Hospital at the University of San Luis Potosi recruited 20 people with Alzheimer’s, 16 people with Parkinson’s, 17 people with other forms of dementia and 12 healthy people to their study. The researchers took a small skin biopsy from each volunteer, and tested the samples to look for variations in the amounts of different proteins. In Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, certain proteins are known to build in the brain, and the researchers wanted to test whether these proteins could also be detected in skin cells.

The researchers reported that skin biopsies from people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s had higher levels of a protein called phospho-tau compared to those from the other groups. In skin biopsies from people with Parkinson’s disease, levels of another protein called alpha-synuclein were higher compared to those from healthy people. The researchers suggest that skin biopsies could be a useful method for helping to diagnose people earlier, and that skin cells could be used to help study these diseases.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“These new findings are yet to be published in full and it is too early to say whether this preliminary study will lead to a new way of identifying people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. This research would need to be repeated in much larger groups of people to determine whether this method could be used in future to aid diagnosis.

“Skin biopsies are already proving useful in dementia research in other ways, for example at Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Stem Cell Research Centre. Human nerve cells can be grown in a dish from ‘reprogrammed’, donated skin cells to create a model of Alzheimer’s disease for research.

“Studies such as this would not be possible without volunteers, both with and without dementia, who sign up to take part in research. Anyone wishing to register their interest in participating in vital studies in their area should visit the Join Dementia Research website at