Blood biomarker predicts dementia risk in Mexican Americans

According to researchers from University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and collaborating institutions reported March 24.

The team looked at conversion to dementia over an average of four years of follow-up in 745 Mexican Americans participating in the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC). The research is described in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, a journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Establishing blood biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease would be tremendous in terms of improving early detection and monitoring disease severity,” said first author Mitzi M. Gonzales, PhD, assistant professor. of Neurology at the Health Sciences Center. Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s Disease and Neurodegenerative Diseases.

“What’s unique about this study is that we were able to perform these analyzes in a large sample of Mexican Americans,” Dr. Gonzales said. “This is important because other studies have shown that there are differences in certain biomarker values ​​between non-Hispanic whites and other ethnic and racial groups. The lack of biomarker research in various cohorts may contribute to the discrepancies in diagnosis and treatment.

The team looked at six different biomarkers to see which biomarker or combination of biomarkers would be most predictive of onset dementia. The biomarkers reflect several disease processes, including neuronal damage, tau protein accumulation, and neuroinflammation. Incident disease in epidemiology refers to changes in health status – such as the development of dementia – that occur over a specific time period.

Of the blood biomarkers examined, only GFAP predicted incident dementia, Dr. Gonzales said. Adding other biomarkers did not increase its predictive power.

“GFAP alone, or perhaps in combination with other biomarkers that we haven’t looked at yet, could help us determine who is at high risk for developing dementia,” Dr. Gonzales said. “More validation studies need to be done before this biomarker can be used as a test in the clinic.”

The TARCC-based research analyzed the results of people who, at the start of the study, were cognitively normal or had mild cognitive impairment. “Looking over a four-year period, we could see that higher levels of this biomarker predicted increased risk,” said Sudha Seshadri, MDlead author of the research paper and founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute at UT Health San Antonio.

“These are people who may not have any symptoms yet, no worries,” Dr Seshadri said. “Dementia research has moved from just treatment to treatment and prevention, and there is a lot of excitement about the possibility of being able to prevent dementia in the future by treating it very early.”

Dr. Gonzales commended the State of Texas for supporting research into Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

TARCC is a statewide consortium of 10 academic centers. Funded by Texas starting in 1999, it allows researchers to access more than 10 years of longitudinal data on consortium study participants. “This is an incredible resource for researchers around the world who want to better understand Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” said Dr. Gonzales.

“The TARCC study is unique in its strong representation of individuals from diverse backgrounds, which is necessary to extend the benefits of the research to all groups of people,” she said.

The co-authors of the study published on March 24 come from several institutions, including the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine (UTRGV). UTRGV and UT Health San Antonio are partners in one of the nation’s newest Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers (ADRC) designated by the National Institute on Aging. The South Texas ADRC is currently the only one in Texas.


Funding is from Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC), Grant/Award Number: 2018-28-JI; National Institute on Aging, Grant/Award Numbers: AG054076, AG059421, AG066546; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Grant/Award Number: NS100605.


Blood biomarkers of cognitive decline and clinical progression in a Mexican American cohort

Mitzi M. Gonzales, PhD; Chen-Pin Wang, PhD; Meghan I. Short, PhD; Danielle M. Parent, BS, MLS; Tiffany Kautz, Ph.D.; Daniel McCarthy BS; Claudia L. Satizabal, Ph.D.; David Andrés González, PhD; Donald R. Royall, MD; Habil Zare, PhD; Sid O’Bryant, PhD; Gladys E. Maestre, MD, PhD; Russell P. Tracy, Ph.D.; Sudha Seshadri, MD

First published: March 24, 2022, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, a journal of the Alzheimer’s Association


University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, also known as UT Health San Antonio, is one of the nation’s leading health sciences universities and is designated as a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With teaching, research, patient care and community engagement missions, its graduate schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and biomedical sciences have graduated 39,700 alumni who lead change, advance their fields, and renew hope for patients and their families across South Texas and the world. To learn more about the many ways “We make lives better®”, visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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