Biomarker found to predict prognosis of Alzheimer's disease

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According to recent estimates from the National Institutes of Health, as many as 2.4 million to 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. 

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the National Alzheimer's Association.

However new research by UCLA researchers suggests  a biomarker may be enlisted to predict the risk of developing the disease in an individual.

Dr. Milan Fiala of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and colleagues reported the biomarker was the immune gene MGAT3, which controls the production of a protein that clear amyloid beta, a precursor for the plaques causing Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers reported in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease that vitamin D3 and curcumin  can help stimulate the immune system to clear amyloid beta in laboratory studies.

Researchers isolated immune cells called macrophages, which help clear amyloid beta, from blood samples from 20 Alzheimer's patients and 20 healthy individuals and tested them to see how effectively they can attack amyloid beta.

The Alzheimer's patients produced different levels of MGAT3, which responded differently to amyloid beta. 

One group produced very low levels of MGAT3, and only very low rates of amyloid beta were adsorbed.  

The second group produced also low rates of MGAT3 and low adsorption of amyloid beta, but added curcumin increased the adsorption of amyloid beta.

The third group had high rates of amyloid beta adsorption, but addition of curcumin actually reduced the adsorption.

Fiala et al. also found vitamin D3 was important for the macrophages to clear amyloid beta. When the macrophages were blocked from accessing vitamin D3, they could not adsorb amyloid beta as effectively.

About 40 percent of Alzheimer's patients and only 10 percent of healthy people had very low rates of MGAT3 and very low rates of amyloid beta adsorption.

New statistics show there are nearly 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers providing 17 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $202 billion. Facts and Figures finds that caregivers not only suffer emotionally but also physically. Because of the toll of caregiving on their own health, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $7.9 billion in additional health care costs in 2010. More than 60 percent of family caregivers report high levels of stress because of the prolonged duration of caregiving and 33 percent report symptoms of depression, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

David Liu and eidting by Amee Keenan-Greene

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