Early Markers for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimers disease shows early dysfunction in cellular machinery of neurons

(RxWiki News) There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but new insights are being made into the nature of the disease regularly. Now, researchers believe they have taken another step forward in being able to detect early signs before memory loss symptoms appear.

Mitochondria, a cellular organ that produces energy inside cells, has been suspected of playing a role in Alzheimer's. Using new methods of study, a mouse model proves that mitochondrial changes can be detected before the associated memory loss.

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“We are not looking at the consequences of Alzheimer's disease, but at very early events and molecular mechanisms that lead to the disease,” says Eugenia Trushina, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic pharmacologist and senior investigator on the study. “One of the most significant findings of this study is our discovery of the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction.”

The team used a method called metabolomics to measure the chemical ‘fingerprints’ of metabolic pathways through the cells of mice. Researchers were able to monitor the activity of sugars, lipids, amino acids, and others with great detail - which allowed them to gain new insight into the cellular processes of the disease.

The specific mitochondrial changes measured were movement, structure, and energy dynamics. Each change was related to a specific gene mutation - and later causes mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain.

The researcher’s next step is to confirm this cellular activity in humans - a step that the team hopes will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

"We expect to validate metabolomic changes in humans with Alzheimer's disease and to use these biomarkers to diagnose the disease before symptoms appear -- which is the ideal time to start treatment," Dr. Trushina says.

The study was published in the online journal PLoS ONE on Feb. 29th, 2012, and was funded by the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation and Institute for the Study of Aging, the American Health Assistance Foundation, the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Research Center, and the National Institutes of Health.

Review Date: 
February 27, 2012