New Risk Factor for Dementia Discovered

Alzheimer's disease risk higher for people with high blood levels of ceramide

July 18, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Looking for biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may lead scientists to new treatments. Biomarkers are proteins found in the body that are linked to AD.

Recent research discovered a new biomarker for AD – ceramides in the blood. High levels of ceramides may mean higher risk of AD.

This new finding gives researchers a new direction in which to look for treatments for AD.

"Report any memory problems to your physician."

The study at Johns Hopkins University, led by Michelle Mielke, PhD, tested the blood of 99 women between the ages of 70 and 79.

The test looked at levels of ceramide in the blood. Ceramide is a fatty substance that is part of the body’s cells, including neurons in the brain.  It is known to play a role in the death of cells. 

Researchers placed the women into categories based on the level of ceramide in their blood test – low, middle and high levels of ceramide. Then they followed the women for up to nine years after the initial blood test and looked for how many women developed dementia or AD.

During the study, 18 were diagnosed with AD, and another nine developed other types of dementia.

Women with low levels of ceramide were eight times less likely to develop AD than those with the middle level of cermide. They were 10 times less likely to develop AD than women with the high level of ceramide.

The researchers concluded that this easy, low-cost blood test could help in early detection of AD. They also note that the discovery of this new biomarker could give new targets for researching drugs and prevention strategies.

The study was published July 18th in Neurology. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Johns Hopkins Older Americans Independence Center. Conflicts of interest were not reported.

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Review Date: 
July 14, 2012
Last Updated:
January 7, 2013