The levels of two fatty compounds in the blood might help predict cognitive decline rate in patients with Alzheimer's disease, suggests study.
The finding, they say, could provide useful information to families and caregivers, and might also suggest treatment targets for this heartbreaking and incurable neurodegenerative disorder.
"We're confident there's a relationship between these lipids and AD progression, but this work is not yet ready to be used clinically," according to Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
Mielke's team found that the higher the level of plasma sphingomyelins and the lower the level of ceramide - two types of fat found in cells throughout the body - the slower the progression of the dementia of Alzheimer's disease.
Although the researchers emphasize that the link between the fats and AD is not well understood, ceramides are involved in inflammation and cell death.
If there are fewer of these cell-killing ceramides circulating - which in turn may be killing off fewer important brain cells - the result may be slower disease progression, Mielke said.
It is possible, she said, that if a sphingomyelinase inhibitor were used to slow down the process of breaking down sphingomyelins into ceramides, the progression of the disease could be interrupted.
The finding was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.