New Research May Aid
in Early Alzheimer’s Detection
Loma Linda University scientists major contributors to findings
BY JAMES PONDER, Loma Linda University and MEGAN BRAUNER, General Conference Communication Department
Several researchers at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s leading medical school have discovered what they hope will be a method to detect Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest and most treatable stages.
The neuroscience researchers found a trail of biomarkers--proteins in the bloodstream that show the severity or presence of a disease by their high concentration--that could lead to early detection of the brain-destroying disease.
The team of researchers from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California and George Mason University in Virginia published their findings earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, volume 19.
BIOMARKER RESEARCH: Members of a joint research team from Loma Linda University, Matthew Schrag, left, and Dr. Wolff Kirsch. The team has discovered what could be a method to better detect and treat Alzheimer’s disease. [photo: Loma Linda University Office of Public Relations]
Using mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of samples, the team screened for low-abundance serum proteins and protein fragments in search of products connected to the existence of Alzheimer’s disease.
The team consisted of Claudius Mueller, then a graduate student at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine; Wolff Kirsch, professor of neurological surgery and biochemistry at Loma Linda University School of Medicine; Lance Liotta, professor of life sciences at George Mason University; and Loma Linda University graduate student Matthew Schrag.
Mueller, now employed at George Mason University, said the team was looking for "garbage” in the blood. The damage Alzheimer’s causes to the brain leaves its mark, even in the early stages, Kirsch added.
“Inflammation of the brain causes a reaction,” Kirsch said. “Blood cells break down and are digested by the body. These signal the production of enzymes that break down the blood even more. Fragments of these enzymes are getting into the blood. There’s going to be some collateral damage.”
Alzheimer’s, named for the German physician who first described the disease in 1906, ultimately destroys nerve cells and tissue in the brain. Individuals with advanced Alzheimer’s lose their communication skills, memories, and the ability to care for themselves.
Discovering the biomarkers for early stage Alzheimer’s is important because that is the only time the disease is treatable, Liotta said. “This study provides some new candidates for that purpose.”