Researchers have begun looking for clues about Alzheimer's in a seemingly unlikely place.
New research has uncovered novel connections between liver dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings from the Alzheimer’s Disease Metabolomics Consortium (ADMC) and Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) may pave a new path to a systems level view of Alzheimer’s in terms of early detection and prevention.
The study, led by Indiana University radiology professor Kwangsik Nho, explores the relationship between blood-based biochemical markers of liver function and established Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, including multi-modal neuroimaging.
With increasing evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease to diabetes or high cholesterol and other systemic illnesses, Prof. Nho and his colleagues discovered an association between liver function and Alzheimer’s, which adds to the understanding of metabolic dysfunction in the disease.
Researchers evaluated more than 1500 participants from the National Institute of Ageing (NIA)-sponsored ADNI over two years using five serum-based liver function assays. Enzymes found predominantly in the liver were measured.
By using the peripheral biochemical markers, the team was able to uncover evidence of metabolic disturbance and gain a new perspective on the association between altered liver enzymes and both cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
“This study … represents the new wave of Alzheimer’s research, employing a broader systems approach that integrates central and peripheral biology,” said Indiana University’s Dr Andrew Saykin.
“In this study, blood biomarkers reflecting liver function were related to brain imaging and CSF markers associated with Alzheimer’s,” he said. “No stone can be left unturned in our attempt to understand the disease and to identify viable therapeutic targets.”
The research is part of a larger body of work that attempts to connect the dots in the body’s “gut-liver-brain” communication pathway and relate this to Alzheimer’s disease.
“This is a new paradigm for Alzheimer’s research,” Prof Nho said.
“Until now, we only focused on the brain. Our research shows that by using blood biomarkers, we can still focus on the brain but also find evidence of Alzheimer’s and improve our understanding of the body’s internal signalling.”
The study’s focus outside the brain aligns with known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, including metabolic disorders.
According to Prof. Nho, looking elsewhere in the body for signals correlated with the disease can provide important clues toward detection and, ultimately, prevention.
Not only does this research shed light on the connection between the liver and brain, but this line of research is expected to ultimately enable physicians to provide more personalised patient care.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all tactic, precision medicine allows researchers and physicians to more accurately predict and prevent devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
The research opens the door for physicians treating patients with liver dysfunction to ensure they aren’t also exhibiting early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Do you suffer from liver dysfunction? Is this news more likely to make you take better care of your liver?
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