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Posted: November 04, 2008

Alzheimer's Risk May Hinge on Level of Certain Blood Protein in Body

The presence of a blood protein commonly used to measure kidney function may help protect the elderly from developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to Swedish researchers. However, if not enough of the protein exists, they think one’s risk of the disease is increased.

The scientists, from Sweden’s Upsala University, discovered during testing that elderly men with low levels of the protein, called cystatin C, ran a higher risk of developing the disease within the next few years. The study was conducted on 1,200 men and is published in the medical journal Neurology.


Nearly all human cells produce cystatin C, and the protein is found in virtually all body fluids. Previous studies have suggested that cystatin C activity in the brain may protect against the development of Alzheimer's by inhibiting amyloid-beta, a protein that forms amyloid plaques in the brain, which is a key feature of the mind-robbing disease.


In the latest research, Dr. Johan Sundelof, of Uppsala University Hospital’s geriatric clinic, and colleagues studied the possible link between blood levels of cystatin C and the development of Alzheimer's in a sampling of 1,230 men, all in their early 70s, who were checked a second time when they each were about 77 years old.


As a result, Sundelof’s team identified a total of 82 subjects who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's during the follow-up.


Upon analysis, the scientist determined that one’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s within a few years was 29% higher if there was a cystatin C decrease of just 0.1-mcmol/L in a study participant.


“Our results give further support to the hypothesis that cystatin C protects the brain against the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” Sundelof told the Swedish newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning.


He pointed out that more studies are needed, including one involving women, before researchers can say more definitively that the Alzheimer’s-protein connection exists and such testing is used to determine a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

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