Early Dementia Warning – Thinning of Brain Region May Signal Risk up to 10 Years Before Symptoms

Researchers have discovered that cortical grey matter thinning is an early biomarker of dementia, detectable 5-10 years earlier than signs. Their examine, utilizing MRI mind imaging on various cohorts, reveals this biomarker’s potential in predicting dementia threat, aiding in early intervention and therapeutic growth.

Researchers purpose to incorporate an MRI biomarker into dementia threat stratification for affected person care and medical trials.

Cortical grey matter, a kind of mind tissue, turns into thinner in people who later develop dementia. This change has been recognized by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) as a dependable biomarker of the illness, detectable 5 to ten years earlier than the onset of signs.

The researchers, working with colleagues from the University of California, Davis, and Boston University, performed an MRI mind imaging examine revealed in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. They studied 1,000 Massachusetts contributors within the Framingham Heart Study and 500 folks from a California cohort. The California volunteers included 44% illustration of Black and Hispanic contributors, whereas the Massachusetts cohort was predominantly non-Hispanic white. Both cohorts have been 70 to 74 years of age on common on the time of MRI research.

“The big interest in this paper is that, if we can replicate it in additional samples, cortical gray matter thickness will be a marker we can use to identify people at high risk of dementia,” mentioned examine lead writer Claudia Satizabal, Ph.D., of UT Health San Antonio’s Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases. “By detecting the disease early, we are in a better time window for therapeutic interventions and lifestyle modifications, and to do better tracking of brain health to decrease individuals’ progression to dementia.”

Repeating the Framingham findings within the more-diverse California cohort “gives us confidence that our results are robust,” Satizabal mentioned.

Sifting MRIs for a sample

While dementias can have an effect on totally different mind areas, Alzheimer’s illness and frontotemporal dementia affect the cortex, and Alzheimer’s is the commonest kind of dementia.

The examine in contrast contributors with and with out dementia on the time of MRI. “We went back and examined the brain MRIs done 10 years earlier, and then we mixed them up to see if we could discern a pattern that reliably distinguished those who later developed dementia from those who did not,” mentioned co-author Sudha Seshadri, MD, director of the Glenn Biggs Institute at UT Health San Antonio and senior investigator with the Framingham Heart Study.

“This kind of study is only possible when you have longitudinal follow-up over many years as we did at Framingham and as we are building in San Antonio,” Seshadri mentioned. “The people who had the research MRI scans while they were well and kept coming back to be studied are the selfless heroes who make such valuable discoveries, such prediction tools possible.”

The outcomes have been constant throughout populations. Thicker ribbons correlated with higher outcomes and thinner ribbons with worse, basically. “Although more studies are needed to validate this biomarker, we’re off to a good start,” Satizabal mentioned. “The relationship between thinning and dementia risk behaved the same way in different races and ethnic groups.”


Clinical trial researchers might use the thinning biomarker to reduce price by choosing contributors who haven’t but developed any illness however are on monitor for it, Seshadri mentioned. They could be at best want to attempt investigational medicines, she mentioned.

The biomarker would even be helpful to develop and consider therapeutics, Seshadri famous.

Future instructions

Satizabal mentioned the staff plans to discover threat elements which may be associated to the thinning. These embrace cardiovascular threat elements, weight loss plan, genetics, and publicity to environmental pollution, she mentioned.

“We looked at APOE4, which is a main genetic factor related to dementia, and it was not related to gray matter thickness at all,” Satizabal mentioned. “We think this is good, because if thickness is not genetically determined, then there are modifiable factors such as diet and exercise that can influence it.”

Derived in medical MRIs

Could the MRI grey matter biomarker be used broadly sometime?

“A high proportion of people going to the neurologist get their MRI done, so this thickness value might be something that a neuroradiologist derives,” Seshadri mentioned. “A person’s gray matter thickness might be analyzed as a percentile of the thickness of healthy people for that age.”

Reference: “A novel neuroimaging signature for ADRD risk stratification in the community” by Claudia L. Satizabal, Alexa S. Beiser, Evan Fletcher, Sudha Seshadri and Charles DeCarli, 26 December 2023, Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
DOI: 10.1002/alz.13600

National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging funding for Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers (ADRCs) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; The University of California, Davis; and Boston University School of Medicine supported this examine.

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