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2015 Grants - Li
Vascular Biomarkers to Predict Response to Exercise in Alzheimer’s Disease
Danni Li, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
2015 New Investigator Research Grant
Can a blood-based biological marker help predict how effective an exercise program will be in improving brain function in individuals with Alzheimer’s?
According to recent studies, regular exercise and a healthful diet may decrease one’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. They may also slow the progression of disease in people who already have Alzheimer’s. Such choices are already known to improve cardiovascular health, which may also positively affect brain health. Certain individuals with Alzheimer’s disease seem to benefit more from exercise therapy than others do, but the underlying reasons for these differences remain unclear.
For their current studies, Danni Li, Ph.D., and colleagues will examine if the levels of certain molecules found in the blood, called n-3 fatty acids, can predict who will show improvement in cognition function in response to exercise. These fatty acids have been shown to protect brain cell health and preserve cognitive abilities in older adults. The team will test if people with higher blood levels of n-3 fatty acids are more likely to benefit from exercise-related dementia therapies than people with lower n-3 levels.
Dr. Li and colleagues will measure the levels of n-3 fatty acids in blood samples from participants of the ongoing Fit-AD Trial. This trial has been examining if a six-month bicycling program can affect brain structure and function in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers will measure n-3 fatty acids before, during and after the exercise program to see if higher levels correspond to stabilized or improved cognitive function. The researchers will use these results to develop a large-scale study to identify blood-based markers that can predict cognitive responses to exercise in Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of Dr. Li’s study could lead to a simple blood test for helping physicians devise targeted therapies, such as inexpensive life-style changes like exercise, for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Such a test could reduce the costs of dementia care, improve the quality of life for those receiving care, and maybe even slow the progression of the disease.