Blood levels of sugar molecules known as glycans could be used to predict Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk. The corresponding study was published in Alzheimer's & Dementia.
Currently, around 6.7 million people aged 65 years and older live with AD in the US. This figure is expected to increase to around 12.7 million by 2050.
Earlier, the researchers behind the present study found that glycan levels were elevated in the cerebrospinal fluid of those with AD. Glycans are sugar molecules found on the surface of proteins that determine their location and function in the body.
In the present study, the researchers wanted to know whether glycans could be used as a diagnostic biomarker. To do so, they analyzed healthcare data from 233 individuals in Sweden. Data included blood samples collected between 2001 and 2004, and measures of cognition such as memory loss taken every 3- 6 years for 17 years.
After analyzing the data, they found that individuals with matching blood levels of glycans and tau protein- a biomarker of dementia- were more than twice as likely to develop dementia.
"We also show that a simple statistical model that take into account blood glycan and tau levels, the risk gene APOE4 and a memory test, can be used to predict Alzheimer's disease to a reliability of 80 per cent almost a decade before symptoms such as memory loss appear," said corresponding author Sophia Schedin Weiss, Associate Professor at the Karolinska Institutet in a press release.
"We're collaborating with researchers in primary care in Sweden to evaluate different biomarkers for dementia at primary health care centers. We hope that glycans in the blood will prove to be a valuable complement to current methods of screening people for Alzheimer's disease that will enable the disease to be detected early," she concluded.