Single Blood ProteinResearchers at Kings College London and the Medical Research Council say that they have found that the blood level of a single protein was lower in individuals whose cognitive ability goes on to decline. They found that the presence of the blood protein called MAPKAPK5 may indicate the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) years before symptoms appear.

The study, which was published in Translational Psychiatry in June, analyzed data from over 100 sets of identical twins from TwinsUK. The use of twins indicated that the association between the blood protein and a ten year decline in cognitive ability was not related to age and genetics.

The lead author of the study said, ‘The next step will be to confirm whether or not our initial finding is specific for Alzheimer’s disease, as this could lead to the development of a reliable blood test which would help clinicians identify suitable people for prevention trials.’

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015 and the condition is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Efficiently identifying probable cognitive impairment is the first step in determining whether or not the person needs further evaluation. The latest screening tools for Alzheimer’s include neuropsychometric, clinical, blood, and neurophysiological tests. Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity points out that the discovery of this diagnostic marker in blood could provide a valuable non-invasive and cost-effective addition to the current tests available.

Though there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, drug and non-drug treatments may provide relief for both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Current research is focused on discovering new treatments to modify the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia.