Authors: Sharon Salt, Editor
Studies that link breakdowns in the brain’s blood vessels to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia were presented at SfN Neuroscience (3–7 November 2018, San Diego, CA, USA). Researchers anticipate that molecules that signal damage in these systems could aid in earlier detection of these diseases and inform more effective interventions.
The research presented at the conference reveals new mechanisms for how damage to the brain’s vascular system contributes to neurodegeneration and point towards potentially protective or therapeutic interventions, such as exercise.
Biomarkers for brain vascular injury could help identify dementia in its early stages
In the first study presented, researchers report that people at genetic risk for AD have elevated levels of molecules that signal brain vascular injury at early stages of cognitive impairment. This finding could help in earlier detection of the disease, and also in identifying targets to slow its progression.
Although the accumulation of misfolded proteins such as amyloid-β and tau in the brain are hallmarks of disease progression in AD, there are no robust biomarkers for early detection and intervention, which could help people with the disease and also serve as an evaluative tool for clinical trials.
In this study, researchers collected CSF from 268 older human volunteers, some of which carried the APOE4 allele. The team found more molecular markers of injury to the blood–brain barrier and vasculature in the CSF of individuals with mild cognitive impairment, compared with those who had no impairment.