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Australian and UK researchers identify new dementia biomarker

Researchers have identified a new biomarker for dementia which they believe could lead to therapeutic treatments for the condition.

Medical researchers in the UK and Australia, from Flinders University and the University of Aberdeen, have investigated the role of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) which has led to the identification of a new biomarker which they say could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

The blood marker has been associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in epidemiological studies.

Understanding dementia

To date, much of the research conducted on dementia has primarily focused on a set of abnormalities found in diseased brains. However, observational studies and clinical trials targeting these alterations have been unfruitful, suggesting the urgent need to better understand the causes of dementia and identify novel markers of disease.

In this study, the ADMA levels measured in the year 2000 (at participants’ age 63 years) was associated with decline in cognitive performance assessments after four years, says Flinders University Professor Arduino Mangoni.

Mangoni, Head of Clinical Pharmacology at Flinders University, said: “Therefore the results of this study suggest, that ADMA, an easily measurable marker of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk, could be an early indicator of cognitive decline in old age – and possibly dementia.”

The causes of late onset Alzheimer’s disease are largely unknown and despite extensive research, there is still no clear consensus on robust biomarkers to predict disease onset and progression and the response to therapies.

UK researcher Dr Deborah Malden says the results of the new study should be approached with caution and need further extensive investigations.

Malden said: “We should be cautious about emphasising the results with the 93 participants’ results here. We would know much more after repeating this study in a large-scale cohort, potentially tens of thousands of individuals, and perhaps a genetic MR (Mendelian randomization) study.”

The researchers say that if the study findings are verified in large-scale testing, they could pave the way for population-wide dementia risk stratification, and potentially lead to the development of future  therapeutic strategies to reduce ADMA levels and/or slow the progression of cognitive decline in old age.


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