Researchers at Shanghai-based Huashan Hospital of Fudan University have identified a new blood biomarker that may help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease (AD) in its early stage.
Through a large-scale study involving over 800 participants, the researchers found that plasma glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) was significantly higher in the blood samples from AD patients than in non-AD individuals.
Yu Jintai, the lead researcher for the study, said the plasma GFAP level increased with disease progression and reached the peak at the stage of AD dementia. More importantly, such a protein level increase occurs in the preclinical phase.
There is a long latent period before clinical symptoms appear in AD patients. If patients are diagnosed through detection methods in the preclinical stage, it can achieve early intervention and delay the progression of the disease, Yu said.
AD is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. According to Yu, when patients are diagnosed based on clinical symptoms and imaging indicators, the disease may have already developed to the middle and late stages. Therefore, many recent clinical trials focus on disease prevention programs, requiring identifying populations at risk of AD.
Blood biomarkers have shown to be simple, non-invasive, and patient-friendly in early AD diagnosis, Yu said, emphasizing the importance of the study.
Plasma GFAP has emerged as a biomarker in neurological disorders, but its usefulness for AD diagnosis and prediction remained unclear. This study has proved that it could serve as a diagnostic and predictive biomarker for the disease, said the researcher.
The study results were published in the international journal Clinical Chemistry earlier in March.