Chromatography Searches for a Blood-Based Alzheimer's Biomarker
Jan 07 2020
Currently, there are almost one million people living in the UK with dementia. The majority of the population will know someone who is suffering from dementia. And it is not going away, with statistics suggesting that 1-in-3 people born in the UK will suffer from dementia at some point in their life. It is often associated as an old people’s problem. Just one of the things that happens as you grow old.
More than growing old - it’s a disease
But that is not the case. Throughout our life, we rely on our brains to control almost everything we think, say and do. The brain stores our memories and tells us how to live our lives. But there are certain illnesses that can stop our brains functioning properly. And these illnesses can stop us remembering and thinking. They can also stop us communicating and make it harder to carry out tasks that we have taken for granted all our lives. When our brains stop working as they should, doctors describe the condition as dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease - build-up of proteins
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease - about two-thirds of cases of dementia in older people are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease can also affect younger people too, with early-onset Alzheimer’s affecting people in their 40s and 50s. People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease see changes in their brains - particularly the build-up of two proteins called amyloid and tau.
Unfortunately, we do not know what causes Alzheimer’s disease yet - although the research carried out points to both amyloid and tau proteins being involved. As the disease progresses more of the nerve cells in our brains become damaged. It is thought that it is this damage that causes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Searching for a biomarker
Researchers are fighting back against the diseases that cause dementia. And this includes Alzheimer’s disease. There are several different strands to the fight - but like many diseases there are researchers who are trying to find a way to identify the disease at an earlier stage. For a disease like Alzheimer’s this is crucial, as when the symptoms start to show themselves the disease has progressed from its earliest stages.
A recent paper published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reports on one such search. The biomarker they looked at is called MFSD2a - a protein involved in transport across the blood-brain barrier. They examined blood and brain samples from Alzheimer’s disease and healthy controls using gas chromatography. The use of chromatography to analyse proteins is discussed in the article, Proteins Under Pressure.
The Spanish researchers behind the work report that there was a reduction in MFSD2a levels in blood samples of patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy controls - but no difference was seen in brain samples. They report that the level of MFSD2a in the whole blood could be a potential biomarker of this disease.
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