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New early detection option for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's


Messenger substance for the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases discovered

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's dementia and Parkinson's disease cause irreversible damage to the brain in the advanced stage. There is currently no reliable way to detect these diseases at an early stage. However, this could change soon, because researchers have discovered a messenger substance that is apparently suitable for the early detection of dementia.

If the effects of dementia are clearly visible, the damage to the brain is already well advanced. For years, scientists have been desperately looking for methods to detect neurodegenerative diseases at an early stage. So-called biomarkers play an important role in early detection. Using these identifying features, doctors can identify such diseases at an early stage. A research team from the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel has discovered such a biomarker that is intended to support the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases. The study results were recently published in the specialist journal "Cell Reports".

When cells get stressed

Human cells communicate with each other in a complex and coordinated interplay. If this normal functioning is disturbed, many cells activate a stress response that is important for the survival of the cells. The Basel research group led by Professor Dr. Stephan Frank was able to document in detail how this stress response works with nerve cells in the brain. The researchers found that, as a result of the stress reaction, a certain messenger substance often appears before the nerve cells die. Since chronic cell stress and the death of nerve cells have a major impact on the development of dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the newly discovered substance could be suitable as a biomarker for early detection.

The process in detail

Mitochondria are considered the power plants of the cells. They produce the energy sources needed to supply the cell. As the scientists report, disorders in the mitochondria affect certain neighboring cell areas (organelles). This leads to a stress reaction in the nerve cells. The disturbed mitochondria release the newly discovered substance Fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21). The same messenger has been increasingly identified in different model systems of neurodegenerative diseases. FGF21 appears before the nerve cells begin to die.

Early detection and new therapies possible

Chronic cell stress is currently one of the most important factors in the development of neurodegenerative diseases, in which many processes are still not sufficiently understood. The messenger substance FGF21 could be suitable as a biomarker for the early detection of clinical pictures such as Alzheimer's dementia or Parkinson's disease. "Further studies are necessary because the messenger substance can also be produced by other tissues and organs, such as adipose tissue and liver," the researchers sum up in a press release on the study results.

A robust biomarker?

If FGF21 proves to be a robust biomarker in further studies, this would be an important prerequisite for the development of new early detection methods and therapeutic approaches that are suitable for combating chronic cell stress. According to the Basel research group, such methods are also urgently needed. According to the researchers, the ever-increasing life expectancy will lead to dementia diseases increasing by 1.7 times in the next ten years. (vb)

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