Conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, could be detected earlier thanks to new research from Indiana University.
Scientists at the university have released a study in which it was found that a genetic material, known as microRNA, exhibited detectable changes in mice, prior to the recognisable symptoms of dementia becoming apparent.
The research suggested that in cases of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, these changes might represent a previously undetectable early warning.
Commenting on the findings, the report’s lead author, Dr Hui-Chen Lu, said: “Identifying biomarkers early in a disease is important for diagnosing the condition, and following its progression and response to treatment. You need something that can predict your future.
“There is currently no treatment to stop or reverse the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS or Huntington’s.”
Taking two groups of test mice, one normal, the other genetically modified to develop dementia symptoms, the research showed that the highest levels of changes to microRNA occurred in the latter group, long before any physical symptoms were evident.
Discussing the importance of these findings, Dr Lu said: “Higher levels of pre-symptomatic microRNA dysregulation are significant because it strongly suggests that it may have a role in changes to the brain in later stages.”
Further research intends to discover if the changes to microRNA can be detected in blood tests.