New marker offers hope for dementia treatment

Australian and UK researchers have found a new blood marker that they say could offer hope for predicting and treating dementia.

Australian and UK researchers have found a new blood marker that they say could offer hope for predicting and treating dementia.

A study by Flinders University and the University of Aberdeen in the UK published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry looked at a marker found in blood and known as ADMA.

ADMA, first identified about 20 years ago, is a naturally produced chemical, but high levels of it are associated with cardiovascular disease.

“So because of the relationship between cardiovascular disease and dementia, and because of the link between ADMA and cardiovascular disease, we thought we could investigate whether by measuring this chemical in the blood as a proxy for cardio vascular risk we could also in theory predict whether you’re more likely to change your cognitive function over time,” Professor Arduino Mangoni, Head of Clinical Pharmacology at Flinders University told Community Care Review.

Researchers looked at ADMA levels in a group of 90 subjects at the age of 63, and compared it with cognitive performance after four years.

“We measured the levels of ADMA at the time when they were 63 years old and were able to determine that those who had higher ADMA in the blood at that age were more like to a decline in memory over the following four years,” he said.

“Our results have to be interpreted with caution and we need additional studies, but they seem to suggest that by measuring this chemical in the blood you can in theory predict whether you will develop dementia,” he said.

The findings also offer hope for potential new treatments.

“Even more exciting is that we also have potential treatments that have been trialled in the lab or in animals that can reduce ADMA levels in the blood,” Professor Mangoni said.

“So the challenges for the future would be to see that if you give a drug that lowers ADMA levels, whether this can also be useful in preventing dementia or improving memory.”

Hearing loss can lead to misdiagnosis

Meanwhile, a separate study by Dr Christian Fullgrabe from Loughborough University in the UK suggests that age-related hearing loss can lead to dementia being wrongly diagnosed.

Dr Fullgrabe says this is because many cognitive screening tests use auditory methods to test memory recall, and many people who are suspected of cognitive decline are older and more likely to suffer from age-related hearing loss.

Dr Fullgrabe says his research demonstrated conclusively that memory was worse when subjects had simulated hearing impairments.

The findings are “strong evidence that the presentation format of the cognitive test can impact on the test performance,” he says.

He says he hopes the research will encourage clinicians to consider their patients’ hearing when administering tests in future.

The research is published in the journal frontiers in Neuroscience.

Main image: Professor Mangoni (R) at work in his research laboratory (image supplied by Flinders University).

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