Test also may identify neurodegeneration in other brain diseases, injuries
From the WashU School of Medicine News…
A simple blood test reliably detects signs of brain damage in people on the path to developing Alzheimer’s disease – even before they show signs of confusion and memory loss, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany.
The findings, published Jan. 21 in Nature Medicine, may one day be applied to quickly and inexpensively identify brain damage in people with not just Alzheimer’s disease but other neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury or stroke.
“This is something that would be easy to incorporate into a screening test in a neurology clinic,” said Brian Gordon, PhD, an assistant professor of radiology at Washington University’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology and an author on the study. “We validated it in people with Alzheimer’s disease because we know their brains undergo lots of neurodegeneration, but this marker isn’t specific for Alzheimer’s. High levels could be a sign of many different neurological diseases and injuries.”
The test detects neurofilament light chain, a structural protein that forms part of the internal skeleton of neurons. When brain neurons are damaged or dying, the protein leaks out into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord and from there, into the bloodstream.
Finding high levels of the protein in a person’s cerebrospinal fluid has been shown to provide strong evidence that some of their brain cells have been damaged. But obtaining cerebrospinal fluid requires a spinal tap, which many people are reluctant to undergo. Senior author Mathias Jucker, PhD, a professor of cellular neurology at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Tübingen, along with Gordon and colleagues from all over the world, studied whether levels of the protein in blood also reflect neurological damage.