New biomarker may predict dementia early
Researchers from the Flinders University in Australia and University of Aberdeen in the UK have found that a biomarker associated with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), is also associated with declining cognitive performance in the elderly.
The universities conducted a new study in participants of the 1936 Aberdeen Birth Cohort which investigated the association between ADMA levels in 2000 and temporal changes in cognition in 2004. [Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2020 May 25. doi: 10.1002/gps.5355]
In the study comprising 93 participants aged 63 years, 0.06 µmol/L increase in ADMA levels was linked to an average decline in cognitive performance (Raven’s progressive matrices of 1.26 points, 95 percent confidence interval 0.14–2.26) after 4 years.
“Therefore, the results of this study suggest that ADMA, an easily measurable marker of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk, could be an early indicator of cognitive decline in old age—and possibly dementia,” said Professor Arduino Mangoni, Head of Clinical Pharmacology at Flinders University.
According to Deborah Malden, Ph.D, a researcher from the University of Oxford, the results of the new study should be approached with caution and need further extensive investigations.
“We would know much more after repeating this study in a large-scale cohort, potentially tens of thousands of individuals, and perhaps a genetic MR (Mendelian randomization) study,” said Malden.
If large-scale testing confirms the initial study findings, researchers hope it will lead to population-wide dementia risk stratification and perhaps future development of therapeutic strategies to reduce ADMA levels and/or slow the progression of cognitive decline in old age.
Although not part of current clinical practice, there are genetic animal studies and drug interventions in animals and humans that significantly reduce ADMA levels.