AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 1, 2018

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New Biomarker Predicts Alzheimer's Disease and Link to Diabetes

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline. Iowa State University researchers say higher levels of the enzyme, autotaxin, significantly predict memory impairment and Type 2 diabetes. Just a one-point difference in autotaxin levels – for examples, going from a level of two to a three – is equal to a 3.5 to 5 times increase in the odds of being diagnosed with some form of memory loss, said Auriel Willette, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State. Autotaxin, often studied in cancer research, is an even stronger indicator of Type 2 diabetes. A single point increase reflects a 300 percent greater likelihood of having the disease or pre-diabetes. Willette and Kelsey McLimans, a graduate research assistant, say the discovery is important because of autotaxin’s proximity to the brain. “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,” Willette said. “This is as directly inside of the brain as we can get without taking a tissue biopsy.”

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Calendar/Courses

Second International Brain Mapping Course
April 26-27, 2018; New Orleans

Surgical Approaches to Skull Base
April 26-28, 2018; St. Louis, MO

2018 AANS Annual Scientific Meeting
April 28-May 2, 2018; New Orleans

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