When it comes to neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s could have a unique “fingerprint” in the set of proteins that are expressed in those diagnosed or showing signs of the disease, making way for the possibility of drug targeting of new biomarkers.

A team of researchers in the Department of Neurology at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, led a study to understand exactly how proteins are expressed in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, from the formation of the proteins early on to the onset and progression of the disease. The study was published in its entirety in Nature Medicine.

To conduct the study, the largest of its kind to date, the team looked at more than 3,000 proteins using both post-mortem brains and samples of cerebrospinal fluid. The proteins were placed into 13 different categories with the goal of finding links between them. Included in the samples were brains and fluids of a control group of people who were healthy against those who had documented neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, but still had cognitive capabilities while living.

The results of the study identified various proteins that were present in larger amounts in samples, potentially serving as biomarkers for the disease These proteins included signature proteins responsible for breaking down glucose during energy metabolism processes, in addition to those that play a role in the body’s anti-inflammatory responses. The latter was found to be elevated in not only the fluids samples of people displaying early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, but also showed up in asymptomatic brains

While the cause of the disease is still unknown, it has been widely accepted among researchers that Alzheimer’s disease manifests as a result of a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. This study makes huge strides in understanding these factors and creates new opportunities for early diagnosis.

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