Dr Claire Steves, senior lecturer at the Department of Twin Research, King’s College London, recently co-authored a seminal paper in the Journal Translational Psychiatry that describes the identification of a protein in blood that could potentially lead to early identification and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. This important breakthrough was reported world-wide and was covered in major British papers such as the Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail.
The research used data from over 100 sets of healthy twins. The researchers looked at over 1000 proteins in the blood, and found decreasing amounts of one protein in particular, called MAPKAP5, over a ten year time was associated with a decline in cognitive ability which was independent of age and genetics.
There are no current cost effective ways to identify people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying blood markers such as MAPKAPK5, which may indicate a person’s future risk of Alzheimer’s disease, could contribute towards the better design of prevention trials.
Dr Steven Kiddle, co-author from the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre, also at KCL, said: “Although we are still searching for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, what we do know is that prevention of the disease is likely to be more effective than trying to reverse it.
“The next step will be to replicate our finding in an independent study, and to confirm whether or not it is specific for Alzheimer’s disease, as this could lead to the development of a reliable blood test which would help clinicians identify suitable people for prevention trials.”
Dr Claire Steves said “We’re optimistic that our research has the potential to benefit the lives of those who don’t currently have symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but are at risk of developing the disease.”
Dr Steves added, “We are hugely indebted to the twins for giving us their time and effort with these cognitive tests. We are continuing to follow-up both memory symptoms and cognitive testing in TwinsUK, which will be important in confirming and translating the science into benefits for older adults.”
The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and the Wellcome Trust.