Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have found that elevated levels of phosphorylated tau231 (P-tau231) in cerebrospinal fluid may be an early diagnostic biomarker for Alzheimer disease in healthy adults. The study shows that high levels of P-tau231 predict future memory decline and loss of brain gray matter in the medial temporal lobe.
The paper, titled “Phosphorylated tau 231, memory decline and medial temporal atrophy in normal elders,” was published online by Neurobiology of Aging.
Prior studies found the medial temporal lobe to be the most vulnerable brain region in the early stages of Alzheimer disease, accumulating damaged tau proteins in the form of neurofibrillary tangles.
The NYU team evaluated 57 cognitively healthy older adults and studied the relationships between baseline cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers, longitudinal memory performance, and longitudinal measures of the medial temporal lobe gray matter using MRI. Two years later, researchers found that 20 out of 57 healthy adults showed decreased memory performance.
The group with worsened memory had higher baseline levels of P-tau231 and more atrophy in the medial temporal lobe. The higher P-tau231 levels were associated with reductions in medial temporal lobe gray matter.
“Our research results show for the first time that elevated levels of P-tau231 in normal individuals can predict memory decline and accompanying brain atrophy,” reports lead author, Lidia Glodzik, M.D., Ph.D., assistant research professor, department of psychiatry at the Center for Brain Health and Center of Excellence on Brain Aging at NYU School of Medicine. “Our findings suggest that P-tau231 has the potential to be an important diagnostic tool in the pre-symptomatic stages of Alzheimer disease.”