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Study opens the door to earlier diagnosis and potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease

Study opens the door to earlier diagnosis and potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease
Large Aβ Agg [+] MCI patients display lower AD-like brain pathology than large Aβ Agg [-] MCI. a 18F-FTP PET uptake in each group at baseline, two-year follow-up, and longitudinal change. The mean was calculated in a ROI comprising the entorhinal, amygdala, parahippocampal, fusiform, inferior temporal, and middle temporal cortical regions; mean ± SD. b Mean 11C-PiB PET uptake in each group at baseline, two-year follow-up, and longitudinal change. The mean uptake was calculated in a ROI comprising the prefrontal, orbitofrontal, anterior and posterior cingulate, precuneus, parietal, and temporal cortical regions; mean ± SD. c Mean cortical 18F-FTP PET uptake in each group at two-year follow-up (left panel) and statistical results from a two-sided unpaired t-test between large Aβ Agg [+] MCI patients vs. controls and large Aβ Agg [-] MCI patients, respectively (right panel). d Mean cortical 11C-PiB PET uptake in each group at two-year follow-up (left panel) and statistical results from a two-sided unpaired t-test between large Aβ Agg [+] MCI patients vs. controls and large Aβ Agg [−] MCI patients, respectively (right panel). Positive t-values (red) indicate significantly lower uptake in the large Aβ Agg [+] MCI group. Statistical cortical maps were familywise error rate corrected (α = 0.05) using cluster-extent-based thresholding with a primary cluster-defining threshold of p < 0.05. Source data are provided as a Source Data file. Credit: Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-45627-y

A study might open the door to earlier diagnosis and a potential pathway toward slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have discovered a special receptor on immune cells that can effectively bind and neutralize harmful "beta proteins," which are strongly associated with the disease.

"The method allows us to monitor disease-related changes at an earlier stage than is possible with traditional methods. And this is important when it comes to Alzheimer's because it's known to develop over a very long period of time. This is also why is typically first started when the disease is already so advanced that it may be almost impossible to slow down," explains Kristian Juul-Madsen, a postdoc at the Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University and one of the researchers behind the study.

"If we can activate the body's own immune system at an earlier stage of the disease, it might be possible to slow down its progression before it develops into full-blown dementia," he adds.

The study suggests that the activity of the peripheral immune system may play a crucial role in the body's defense against Alzheimer's by preventing the accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain.

The new method uses an advanced type of blood test analysis that is particularly sensitive to the early stages of the disease. This is a major breakthrough compared to current diagnostic tools, such as PET scans, which can usually only spot the disease once it is at an .

"Our hope is that these discoveries can pave the way for new strategies in the fight against Alzheimer's. By understanding how the immune system can be mobilized against the early stages of the disease, we might be able to develop therapies that can intervene much earlier than current treatment options," says Kristian Juul-Madsen.

The results of the study have received international attention, and the research team behind the discovery is already planning follow-up projects to test the new method in a larger patient group.

The research team is also trying to understand the exact mechanisms behind the immune system's ability to fight the early signs of Alzheimer's, which could be key to developing even more effective treatments in the future.

"The biggest challenge in transferring our research to the clinic is that it takes a long time to test the beneficial effect of activating the immune system, as Alzheimer's is known to develop very slowly, and you need to intervene at a very early stage," explains Kristian Juul-Madsen.

While the study is promising for the fight against Alzheimer's, it also raises some ethical concerns. After all, what will an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's mean for patients and their families when there is currently no effective treatment for the disease?

"Of course, it's sad if you can identify the development of a dangerous disease like Alzheimer's without being able to do anything to stop it. However, this is something we need to do in order to develop a treatment in the future," says Kristian Juul-Madsen.

The work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

More information: Kristian Juul-Madsen et al, Amyloid-β aggregates activate peripheral monocytes in mild cognitive impairment, Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-45627-y

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Citation: Study opens the door to earlier diagnosis and potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease (2024, March 12) retrieved 15 June 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-03-door-earlier-diagnosis-potential-treatment.html
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