A sugar molecule in the blood may predict early Alzheimer’s

A Sugar Molecule In The Blood May Predict Early Alzheimer’s

Early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s require reliable and cost-effective screening procedures. Recently, scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found a link between a specific kind of blood sugar molecule and tau levels, a protein involved in the development of severe dementia. The research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia may lead to a quick screening method that can anticipate onset ten years in advance.

According to the study, the presence of a particular glycan structure in the blood called bisected N-acetylglucosamine can be a predictive marker for Alzheimer’s. This finding raises the possibility of using the quantity of this glycan structure in blood as a predictor of the likelihood of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease. This finding emphasizes the promise of blood-based indicators as a reliable and practical way to screen for Alzheimer’s early and identify those who may benefit from the care and intervention of this neurodegenerative condition.

More blood biomarkers are required!

There is a financial and practical necessity for non-invasive Alzheimer’s screening procedures. Detection of blood markers is preferable since brain imaging is expensive and sample collection for cerebrospinal fluid is more challenging.

Recently, research from the Karolinska Institutet has revealed that it is possible to predict the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s based on the blood levels of a specific glycan structure known as bisected N-acetylglucosamine.

The study team has previously shown a connection between the amounts of tau protein and glycans in Alzheimer’s patients, but they investigated it on cerebrospinal fluid. Glycans are sugar molecules that exist on the surface of proteins and serve to define their position and role in the body.

Researchers measured the blood glycan levels and discovered that people with matched amounts of glycans and tau in their blood were more than twice as likely to acquire Alzheimer’s-type dementia.

According to the corresponding author, Sophia Schedin, a straightforward statistical model that includes blood glycans and tau levels, the risk gene APOE4, and a memory test may predict Alzheimer’s to an accuracy of 80% nearly a decade before symptoms like memory loss manifest.

The Research Findings

The Swedish National Study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K) cohort of 233 participants served as the basis for the study’s conclusions. Researchers collected the samples used in the study between 2001 and 2004 and rigorously checked the subjects for 17 years for factors like memory loss and dementia development.

Researchers observed the development of Alzheimer’s and associated cognitive impairments in the research population over a long period through follow-up evaluations at periodic intervals of three to six years. The lengthy follow-up period and comprehensiveness of the data collected give the research findings a firm foundation, increasing the reliability and accuracy of the inferences made from the study.

The researchers now plan to scrutinize blood samples from the remaining participants of the SNAC-K study as well as those in other studies on aging in and out of Sweden.
Dr. Schedin Weiss said they are partnering with primary care researchers in Sweden to study different biomarkers for dementia in primary healthcare centers. They anticipate that glycans in the blood will be a helpful addition to present ways of screening people for Alzheimer’s, allowing the condition to be recognized early.


  1. Zhou, R.Z., Vetrano, D.L., Grande, G., Duell, F., Jönsson, L., Laukka, E.J., Fredolini, C., Winblad, B., Tjernberg, L. and Schedin‐Weiss, S., 2023. A glycan epitope correlates with tau in serum and predicts progression to Alzheimer’s disease in combination with APOE4 allele status. Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
  2. Schedin‐Weiss, S., Gaunitz, S., Sui, P., Chen, Q., Haslam, S.M., Blennow, K., Winblad, B., Dell, A. and Tjernberg, L.O., 2020. Glycan biomarkers for Alzheimer disease correlate with T‐tau and P‐tau in cerebrospinal fluid in subjective cognitive impairment. The FEBS Journal, 287(15), pp.3221-3234.
  3. Sugar molecule in blood can predict Alzheimer’s disease. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/04/230412131158.htm. Published Online: 12th April, 2023. Accessed: 5th May, 2023.
  4. Sugar molecule in blood can predict Alzheimer’s disease. MLO Online. https://www.mlo-online.com/diagnostics/hematology/article/53058384/sugar-molecule-in-blood-can-predict-alzheimers-disease. Published Online: 25th April, 2023. Accessed: 5th May, 2023.
  5. Sugar molecule in blood can predict Alzheimer’s disease. News Wise. https://www.newswise.com/articles/sugar-found-in-blood-could-predict-alzheimer-s-disease. Published Online: 12th April, 2023. Accessed 5th May, 2023.
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