Blood protein tied to Alzheimer’s disease risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Low levels of cystatin C — a blood protein commonly used as a measure of kidney function — may be a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease in elderly men, researchers report.

Cystatin C is produced by nearly all human cells and available in all body fluids. During the past decade, studies have suggested that cystatin C activity in the brain may protect against the development of Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting amyloid-beta — a protein in the body that forms amyloid plaques in the brain, a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease.

To further explore this idea, Dr. Johan Sundelof, of Uppsala University, Sweden, and colleagues examined the association between blood levels of cystatin C and the development of Alzheimer’s disease in a group of 1,230 men in their early 70s, who were re-assessed when they were about 77 years old.

A total of 82 subjects were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during follow-up.

The researchers observed an association between lower cystatin C levels and higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the researchers, a 0.1-mcmol/L decrease of cystatin C between ages 70 and 77 was associated with a 29 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our findings strengthen the evidence of a role for cystatin C in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis,” Sundelof said in an interview with Reuters Health.

SOURCE: Neurology, September 30, 2008.

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