Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Diagnosis May Be Possible with Discovery of Six Protein Markers
Effective Alzheimer’s disease treatment requires an
early diagnosis, which is not yet possible; researchers have
identified six proteins in spinal fluid that can be used as markers for
Human neuroblastoma with cell nucleus in blue;
beta amyloid as red aggregates within green-tinted lysosomes.
Photo: Lotta Agholme.
Oct. 23, 2013 - Alzheimer’s causes
great suffering and has a one hundred percent fatality rate. The
breakdown of brain cells has been in progress for ten years or more by
the time symptoms begin to appear. Currently there is no treatment that
can stop the process.
Most researchers now agree that one
cause of the illness is toxic accumulations – plaques – of the beta
amyloid protein. In a healthy brain, the cells are cleansed of such
surplus products through lysosomes, the cells’ “waste disposal
facilities” (green in the picture).
“In victims of Alzheimer’s,
something happens to the lysosomes so that they can’t manage to take
care of the surplus of beta amyloid. They fill up with junk that
normally is broken down into its component parts and recycled,” says
Katarina Kågedal, reader in Experimental Pathology at Linköping
University. She led the study that is now being published in
The researchers’ hypothesis was that
these changes in the brain’s lysosomal network could be reflected in the
spinal fluid, which surrounds the brain’s various parts and drains down
into the spinal column.
They studied samples of spinal
marrow from 20 Alzheimer’s patients and an equal number of healthy
control subjects. The screening was aimed at 35 proteins that are
associated with the lysosomal network.
Part of the research group, from the left Hanna Appelqvist, Linnea
Sandin, Katarina Kågedal and Camilla Janefjord.
“Six of these had clearly increased
in the patients; none of them were previously known as markers for
Alzheimer’s,” says Kågedal.
Her hope is that the group’s
discovery will contribute to early diagnoses of the illness, which is
necessary in the first stage in order to be able to begin reliable
clinical tests of candidates for drugs. But perhaps the six lysosomal
proteins could also be “drug targets” – targets for developing drugs.
“It may be a question of
strengthening protection against plaque formation or reactivating the
lysosomes so that they manage to break down the plaque,” Kågedal says.
The study was conducted on 20
anonymous, archived spinal marrow samples and the results were
confirmed afterwards on an independent range of samples of equal size.
All samples were provided by the Laboratory for Clinical Chemistry at
Sahlgrenska University Hospital.