Brain enzyme could help predict memory loss and type 2 diabetes

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 20 Dec 2016
Brain enzyme could help predict memory loss and type 2 diabetes
Researchers think high levels of a certain type of brain enzyme could help predict memory loss and type 2 diabetes.

Even the smallest change in the amount of autotaxin, an enzyme found in the fluid surrounding the brain and spine, could indicate there is an issue with the memory.

An American research team at Iowa State says there is a 300 per cent greater chance of someone developing type 2 diabetes if autotaxin levels are increased, even by a single point.

The findings have also provided a greater understanding of what is happening in the minds of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Study author Auriel Willette said: "We've been looking for metabolic biomarkers which are closer to the brain. We're also looking for markers that reliably scale up with the disease and have consistently higher levels across the Alzheimer's spectrum. This is as directly inside of the brain as we can get without taking a tissue biopsy."

Willette's previous research found a link between insulin resistance and damaging brain outcomes, and following this new study Kelsey McLimans, a graduate research assistant, said the autotaxin provides a "higher predictive rate for having Alzheimer's disease".

McLimans added: "We also found correlations with worse memory function, brain volume loss and the brain using less blood sugar, which have also been shown with insulin resistance, but autotaxin has a higher predictive value."

A total of 287 people, aged between 56-89 years took part in the study, who were asked to complete tests that measured their cognitive function.

The results showed levels of autotaxin could help predict the amount of brain energy used in areas which are affected by Alzheimer's.

Higher autotaxin levels also meant people had less brain cells in the areas which are linked to memory. This was determined because of how participants performed in the tests.

Willette said: "Autotaxin is related to less real estate in the brain, and smaller brain regions in Alzheimer's disease mean they are less able to carry out their functions.

"It's the same thing with blood sugar. If the brain is using less blood sugar, neurons have less fuel and start making mistakes and in general do not process information as quickly."

The research findings have been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
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