As with Alzheimer’s , dementia is a disease characterized by impaired memory and cognitive function for which there is still no cure, hence early detection is crucial to treat its effects.
In this sense, a team of German researchers has managed to identify a series of molecules that control protein production and the body’s metabolism, and that could predict dementia.
The neurologist André Fischer , from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and one of the authors of this research, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine , have referred to the need for prevention in a statement .
“We need tests that respond preferably before the onset of dementia and reliably estimate the risk of later disease,” says Fischer. “In other words, tests that give an early warning . We are confident that the results of our current study pave the way for such tests,” he says.
Specifically, the researchers conducted a combination of experiments with humans – 132 healthy human volunteers and 53 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment – mice and laboratory samples , which allowed them to identify three microRNAs related to mental performance.
Higher levels of microRNAs were associated with mental decline in mice, as well as dementia in older people with mild cognitive impairment. In this group, 90% of those with elevated levels of these biomarkers went on to develop Alzheimer’s within two years.
Likewise, studies in mice and cell cultures showed that these three microRNAs were associated with inflammatory processes in the brain and neuroplasticity , that is, the ease of neurons to form connections.
“They are not just markers, but they also have an active impact on disease processes ,” says Fischer, which “makes them potential targets for therapy.”
For now, the researchers have shown in mice how learning ability improves when these microRNAs are blocked with drugs , so they believe that these regulatory molecules could also indicate how dementia takes over the brain and thus estimate future risk.
The next step for scientists is to develop a simple and non-invasive screening process, such as a blood test , so that these microRNA biomarkers can be searched for and used in regular monitoring.
“By the time dementia symptoms develop, the brain has already been massively damaged,” says Fischer. “Currently, diagnosis occurs too late, even with the possibility of effective treatment. If dementia is detected early, the chances of positively influencing the course of the disease increase, ” he concludes.