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Harbinger molecules could predict dementia up to 5 years in advance

Date: 11.10.2021 

Earlier detection of dementia could open up far more effective ways to treat and manage the condition, and one place scientists are increasingly turning to for warning signs is the blood. A new study has further broadened the possibilities in this area, pinpointing a set of molecules the authors describe as a "harbinger" of the condition two to five years ahead of onset, and may even provide new targets for advanced therapies.

Kredit: Islam et al. (2021), EMBO Mol Med.The new study, carried out by scientists at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the University Medical Center Göttingen, takes aim at molecules call microRNA. These are short strands of non-coding RNA that can regulate gene expression and protein production, and we've seen recently how they could play a role in cancer diagnosis through blood and even urine tests.

In order to pinpoint a set of microRNAs that can act as a signature for mental performance, the scientists analyzed data on young, healthy subjects and elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). These efforts were helped along by extensive studies in mice and cell cultures, with the team landing on three microRNAs that acted as a marker for mental performance.

“Our goal is to have a low-cost test, similar to the rapid test for SARS-CoV-2 with the difference that for our purposes, you would need a drop of blood," says Fisher. "Such a test could be used during routine checkups in doctors’ practices to detect an elevates risk of dementia early on. Individuals with suspicious results could then undergo more elaborate diagnostics.”





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