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Inflammatory marker linked to dementia in new research

An inflammatory marker called sCD14 has been linked to brain atrophy, cognitive decline and dementia, according to a study of more than 4,700 participants from two large community-based heart studies.

Dr Matthew Pase from the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health co-led the research which studied the risk of dementia in 1,588 participants from the Framingham Heart Study and 3,129 participants from the Cardiovascular Health Study in the USA.

"We looked at blood samples and dementia diagnosis of participants over the following decade and observed that people with higher blood levels of sCD14 also had a higher risk of dementia," explained Dr Pase.

Plasma sCD14 was measured in participants’ blood upon study enrolment. In the Framingham group, brain MRI and cognitive testing were performed within one year after the blood draw for sCD14. A second round of tests was performed after seven years. Surveillance for dementia was conducted over an average of nine years.

In the Cardiovascular Health Study, the first brain MRI was obtained three to four years after enrolment and a second round five years later.

“There is a growing recognition of the role of inflammation in neurodegeneration and vascular injury-related cognitive decline and dementia,” said study senior author Sudha Seshadri, M.D., professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio and director of the university’s Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases.

“We have strong reason to believe that sCD14 can be a useful biomarker to assess a person’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”

Dr Pase said that tremendous progress was being made in the development of blood biomarkers for dementia and that further investigation can help to understand the clinical impact of this discovery.  

"The ultimate goal here is to improve early detection for dementia so that changes can be made ahead of developing the disease". 

The study was published on 9 December 2019 in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology and has received national media coverage.

You can listen to Dr Pace talk about the research on Melbourne radio program 3AW

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