Newly conducted research at the Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis indicates that a new marker found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients can strongly predict the rate at which their memory and mental ability will decline after diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative syndrome where people’s brains begin to degenerate (usually past the age of 65). Their condition gets progressively worse and will eventually lead to death. It is one of the most common forms of dementia and it is predicted that by 2050, 1 in 85 people will suffer from Alzheimer’s. The actual cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown (except in 1 – 5% of cases where it is genetically predetermined). The current leading hypothyses are:
- the cholinergic hypothesis – states that Azleheimer’s reduces the production of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
- the amyloid hypothesis – states that amyloid beta deposits are the primary cause of the disease. Amyloid is a protein and the theory suggests that amyloid plaques build up in the brain.
The researchers found that in patients with Azlheimer’s, elevated levels of the protein – Visinin-like protein 1 (VILIP-1) were found in the cerebrospinal fluid. The data suggests that those with higher levels of VILIP-1 suffered from faster mental decline than those with lower levels.
The study methodology involved annual testing of patients with mild Alzheimer’s. The testing included measuring the levels of VILIP-1 in the cerebrospinal fluid and also through a set of mental tests. The findings were that memory declined the fastest in patients with higher levels of VILIP-1, which suggests a link between VILIP-1 levels and the extent of damage to the brain.
Some of the current prognostic methods used to detect Alzheimer’s and it’s progression is the measurement of Amyloid beta and tau. Elevated levels of these proteins indicate that abnormal deposits are beginning to form in the brain (the amyloid hypothesis) – whereas, VILIP-1 allows us to determine how much actual damage there is to the brain cells.
This study will be repeated using a larger data set and if found to be correct, may provide better treatment to patients in the future. If not treatment, then comfort, as it will provide them with greater freedom and also some knowledge of exactly what is going to happen to them and when.