Detecting neurodegeneration – all in the blood?

Latest articles

Ovarian aging – it’s time to menopause for thought

It's World Menopause Day – time to focus on the future of ovarian longevity, not dwell in the present. World Menopause Day is held every...

At-home blood test powers personalised longevity advice

AgeRate develops proprietary DNA methylation clock and mobile app solution to offer users personalised longevity support. Canadian startup AgeRate is aiming to shake up the...

Researchers find warning signs for dementia in the blood

Levels of certain microRNAs indicate risk for cognitive decline. Researchers at the DZNE and the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) have identified molecules in the...

VIDEO: The Science of Ovarian Longevity

Instead of papering over the cracks of declining fertility and the effects of menopause, what else can we do to help the longevity of...

Most read

New supplement slows aging and promotes weight loss

Sugar-proof your way to a longer life. Reducing AGEs to slow aging and increase weight loss – how one supplement is fighting the war...

An antiaging supplement that also reduces appetite?

One for the AGEs: Juvify signs IP licensing deal with Buck Institute for GLYLO antiaging supplement that aims to reduce glycation. A researcher at the...

Resveratrol – the small molecule with big antiaging ideas

When it comes to antiaging molecules, we can learn a thing or two from plants. As so often in natural world, plants have a few...

Editor's picks

Ovarian aging – it’s time to menopause for thought

It's World Menopause Day – time to focus on the future of ovarian longevity, not dwell in the present. World Menopause Day is held every...

At-home blood test powers personalised longevity advice

AgeRate develops proprietary DNA methylation clock and mobile app solution to offer users personalised longevity support. Canadian startup AgeRate is aiming to shake up the...

Researchers find warning signs for dementia in the blood

Levels of certain microRNAs indicate risk for cognitive decline. Researchers at the DZNE and the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) have identified molecules in the...

Click the globe for translations.

Detection for protection – could biomarkers for dementia and neurodegeneration be the future?

Neurodegenerative diseases are often linked to age, and, as the population ages, incidences are expected to rocket as the population ages. It’s estimated that by 2030, as many as 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65, so without progress in neurodegenerative research, in just a few decades, Harvard estimates, more than 12 million Americans will suffer from neurodegenerative diseases [1].

Neurodegenerative diseases take over the brain slowly and cause cognitive difficulties, affecting thought, memory, reason and attention span; this takes a huge physical and emotional toll on the patient, the family and the healthcare providers.

Longevity Technology: With new studies published everyday about diet lowering the risk of dementia, halting dementia in monkeys, or even finding a link between Parkinson’s and diabetes, it seems that the the more we find out about dementia, the more research questions there are to answer. However, recent work with biomarkers offer encouragement that regular, standard screenings could offer early detection and treatment, perhaps beginning to alleviate the enormous burden that results from neurodegeneration.

A new study published in Nature Communications by a research team from King’s College London and Lund University of Sweden indicates that there may be a potential new biomarker for neurodegenerative diseases in neurofilament light (NfL) which is released when cells have been damaged.

Elevated concentrations of NfL can indicate a neurodegenerative problem, and these can be detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) draws; however, CSF collection is invasive and painful, so not performed for routine screening purposes, which makes for roadblocks in CSF use for a standard screening diagnosis.

As it turns out, NfL levels found in the blood correlate strongly with those in the CSF, which suggests that the blood could be a less invasive biomarker. A research team led by Drs Nicholas Ashton, Abdul Hye and Oskar Hanssen, who are based at the University of Gothenburg, King’s College London, and Lund University in Sweden, investigated further. They measured blood NfL concentrations in 2,200 people from Europe, Canada and the US, including some scientists from NIH’s National Institute on Aging.

The study included people with 13 different neurodegenerative disorders, including disorders such as Down’s syndrome and even depression. The researchers were able to find elevated concentrations in people who had different dementias including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and even atypical parkinsonian disorders, which highlights the similarities found in these types of disorders [2].

Interestingly enough, it was found that the NfL concentrations were not disease specific – the NfL levels could indicate something was wrong, but could not clarify between different disorders. Although it really couldn’t distinguish between different diagnoses, the test was capable of telling the difference between people with moderate or severe depression and dementia.

The researchers determined two different thresholds, one for those 65 and above, and those though are younger than 65. Having these different thresholds allowed for even more accuracy in the detection; in fact, after making the distinction, NfL was accurate in diagnosing neurodegeneration in all age groups.

It would appear that a single biomarker can explain whether or not a person is experiencing neurodegeneration with surprising accuracy; judging by the results of the experiment, this could mean that blood tests for elevated NfL concentration could be the detection method of the future. Even if it isn’t discriminatory between the specific disorders, it “could help in services such as memory clinics as a rapid screening tool to identify whether memory, thinking, or psychiatric problems are a result of neurodegeneration,” says Hye [3].

With a rapid screening tool such as this, diagnoses could be streamlined which would allow further research to be conducted and would create a space for pre-emptive action on the part of the patient and healthcare services, whether that be via medication or lifestyle changes.

[1] https://neurodiscovery.harvard.edu/challenge
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34099648/
[3] https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/testing-blood-biomarker-neurodegeneration

Image credit: Gordon JohnsonPixabay
Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

Most popular

New supplement slows aging and promotes weight loss

Sugar-proof your way to a longer life. Reducing AGEs to slow aging and increase weight loss – how one supplement is fighting the war...

An antiaging supplement that also reduces appetite?

One for the AGEs: Juvify signs IP licensing deal with Buck Institute for GLYLO antiaging supplement that aims to reduce glycation. A researcher at the...

Resveratrol – the small molecule with big antiaging ideas

When it comes to antiaging molecules, we can learn a thing or two from plants. As so often in natural world, plants have a few...

Tree of Longevity – understanding how supplements work

Pathways? Hallmarks? Biomarkers? Understanding the longevity supplements lingo can help you make better choices for your healthspan. Longevity supplements differ from other 'generic supplements' as...

Related articles

At-home blood test powers personalised longevity advice

AgeRate develops proprietary DNA methylation clock and mobile app solution to offer users personalised longevity support. Canadian startup AgeRate is aiming to shake up the...

Researchers find warning signs for dementia in the blood

Levels of certain microRNAs indicate risk for cognitive decline. Researchers at the DZNE and the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) have identified molecules in the...

A new approach to reversing tissue aging

Exploring Revel’s enzyme-based approach to breaking down crosslinks and targeting tissue aging. Last year, a startup called Revel Pharmaceuticals emerged from the labs at Yale...

Ovarian aging – your questions answered

Ovarian longevity and the significance of ovarian aging is poorly understood – our video aims to change that. Join our Scientific Editor Daragh Campbell as...

Learning lessons from clinical trial failure

Metabesity 2021: Joan Mannick talks longevity scientific breakthroughs, healthspan endpoints, her new role at Life Biosciences, and what can be learned from resTORbio’s clinical...