They identify a new biomarker that detects the initial stages of Alzheimer’s

Those responsible for the study believe that changes in the brain can be detected in the future with a blood test.

Researchers at the BarcelonaBeta Brain Research Center (BBRC), the research center of the Pasqual Maragall Foundation, have identified in the blood a biomarker that allows the very precise detection of the initial stages of the disease of Alzheimer’s.

Research has found that glial fibrillar acidic protein (GFAP) it is a very accurate biomarker for diagnosing the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in the blood.

“The finding will allow to improve the diagnostic precision of the preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s through a blood test, combining the detection of the GFAP biomarker with others recently discovered,” explained the head of the group of Biomarkers in Fluid and Translational Neurology at BBRC, Marc Suárez-Calvet.

The results of the trial, published in the journal ‘JAMA Neurology’, have been validated in nearly de 900 participants from three cohorts dedicated to Alzheimer’s prevention research.

Suárez-Calvet has detailed that the GFAP ands a brain protein specific to astroglial cells, which are involved in different functional processes, such as supporting the activity of neurons and in the regulation of the blood-brain barrier.

When some type of brain damage occurs, a reaction of these cells takes place, called astrogliosis, which tries to contain brain damage and elevates the expression of GFAP and other markers.

In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, GFAP is a biomarker that was usually measured in the cerebrospinal fluid, after performing a lumbar puncture in the patient.

The novelty of this study is that shows that GFAP measured in blood plasma is better than that measured in cerebrospinal fluid to determine, with more precision and in a less invasive way, where the affected person is in Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have seen that the levels of the biomarker GFAP are higher in people who are in the asymptomatic stage of Alzheimer’s, and that they allow us to differentiate those with or without amyloid pathology in the brain, which is the stage prior to the disease”, has added the researcher Marta Milan-Alomà.

The results of the study have been confirmed in people who are in the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and participating in three independent international cohorts.

In the first place, the researchers analyzed the blood samples of 387 people without cognitive alterations and with a certain risk of developing Alzheimer’s, from the Alfa Study, promoted in 2013 in Barcelona by the Pasqual Maragall Foundation and the “la Caixa” Foundation.

They also investigated the plasma of 300 asymptomatic and cognitively impaired people who are part of the TRIAD study, led at McGill University in Montreal, and, finally, they analyzed the samples of 187 cognitively impaired patients from the Lariboisière Hospital in Paris.

Other biomarker findings

The results of this international study add to the latest blood biomarker findings to detect Alzheimer’s disease.

In November 2020, the same Suárez-Calvet team at the BBRC identified other biomarkers, in this case of the tau protein, to detect the initial phases.

According to Suárez-Calvet, “in just two years research into biomarkers of Alzheimer’s in the blood has advanced so much that we are convinced that in the near future we will be able to detect the silent changes that occur in the brain with a simple blood test requested by the GP, which will allow us to test treatments before neuronal damage is irreversible. ”

Currently, the Pasqual Maragall Foundation is setting up a translational laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art technologies to investigate the disease.

This research has had the collaboration of the University of Gothenburg, the McGill University of Montreal, the University of Paris, the Lariboisière Fernand-Widal Hospital in Paris, the Hospital del Mar and Hospital del Mar Institute for Medical Research (IMIM), the CIBER for Frailty and Healthy Aging (CIBERFES) and the CIBER for Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN).


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