Mayo Clinic researchers have identified potential chemical "fingerprints" of Alzheimer's disease in the spinal fluid and blood of patients — a discovery they said offers promise as a way to detect the condition decades before symptoms appear.
The findings, reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE, could point the way to testing patients for distinct metabolic signatures in blood and cerebrospinal fluid that would allow doctors to provide early treatment and slow the advance of the brain-destroying disease.
"We want to use these biomarkers to diagnose the Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear — which can be decades before people start exhibiting memory loss," said researcher Eugenia Truchina, a Mayo Clinic pharmacologist. "The earlier we can detect the disease, the better treatment options we will be able to offer."
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To identify the markers, researchers analyzed spinal fluid and blood samples from 45 people — 15 with no cognitive decline, 15 with mild cognitive impairment, and 15 with Alzheimer's disease. They detected notable changes in the bodily fluids of those with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. They also noted changes in the blood accurately reflected changes in the spinal fluid, suggesting development of a reliable blood test for Alzheimer's may soon be possible.
The team used a new technique called "metabolomics" that measures the chemical fingerprints of metabolic pathways in the cell — sugars, lipids, nucleotides, amino acids, and fatty acids — to detect the changes. Metabolomics can give scientists insight into the cellular processes that underlie diseases.
The researchers said identifying those changes could lead to biomarkers that can eventually be used for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's, monitoring its progression in patients, and tracking therapeutic approaches, said Trushina.
The study was funded, in part, by grants the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute on Aging.
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