Alzheimer’s Disease Predicted By Measuring Metabolism
November 8, 2012

Researchers Study Link Between Metabolism And Alzheimer’s Disease

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

November is National Alzheimer´s Disease Awareness Month and with that comes more awareness of the disease. In particular, researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) recently discovered that changes in metabolism can also correlate with progress of Alzheimer´s disease. These studies on metabolism could pave the way for new therapies.

With the study, the scientists found that symptoms for Alzheimer´s disease will appear early on. As these signs arise, there will be changes in the metabolic processes of the brain. Researchers developed predictor models that utilized metabolic information to target the progression of Alzheimer´s and the models were 90 percent accurate in terms of determining the stage of the illness.

"We hope that by studying metabolism, and the alterations to metabolism that occur in the very early stages of the disease, we can find new therapeutic strategies," commented Shiri Stempler, a doctoral candidate in TAU´s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, in a prepared statement.

The study allowed the researchers to determine biomarkers, which can then allow them to better detect and analyze Alzheimer´s in its earlier stages. Later on, this could take the form of a simple blood test. In the article, the scientists described metabolism as chemical reactions in the cells that maintain life processes like growth, reproduction and energy use. The researchers looked at data from the hippocampus region of the brain to better understand the link between brain functioning, metabolism and Alzheimer´s disease.

The team of investigators then built a predictive model on the number of metabolic genes in the neurons and nearby tissue. The model showed the relationship between gene abnormalities and the progression of Alzheimer´s disease. From a group of around 1,500 genes, the researchers were able to choose a set of 50 genes that were the best predictors of Alzheimer's disease. The scientists compared the findings of the 50 genes with primates, healthy patients, and patients who were diagnosed with Alzheimer´s disease. They observed that the number of specific genes was limited and there was only a small change in the number of genes among the groups of individuals, which showed that these genes are influential in determining normal brain functioning.

In moving forward with the study, the researchers are interested in studying whether metabolic changes are a cause or a symptom of Alzheimer´s disease.

“The correlation between metabolic gene expression and cognitive score in Alzheimer's patients is even higher than the correlation we see in medical literature between beta amyloid plaques—found in deposits in the brains of Alzheimer's patients–and cognitive score, pointing to a strong association between cognitive decline and an altered metabolism," continued Stempler in the statement.

The next step in the study will include work on identifying biomarkers in the blood that are connected with metabolic changes, which could be useful in obtaining more information on the disease´s progression with a simple, non-invasive blood test. They are hopeful that future studies will allow for the development of therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer´s patients.

The findings from the study were recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.