by Megan Brooks
March 8, 2012 — In a study of patients with very mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD), baseline levels of visininlike protein 1 (VILIP-1) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) strongly predicted the rate of cognitive decline over roughly 3 years, report researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Memory and other cognitive abilities declined faster in patients with the highest levels of VILIP-1, a neuronal calcium-sensor protein that is a sign of neuronal injury.
“VILIP-1 appears to be a strong indicator of ongoing injury to brain cells as a result of Alzheimer’s disease,” lead author Rawan Tarawneh, MD, now an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Jordan, in Amman, said in a statement. “That could be very useful in predicting the course of the disease and in evaluating new treatments in clinical trials.”
In a telephone interview with Medscape Medical News, Eugene C. Lai, MD, PhD, director of the Neurodegenerative Disease Clinic, Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, Texas, who was not involved in the study, said: “There have been several articles about this biomarker (VILIP-1) because it was found that this protein seems to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease.”
“The findings are interesting,” he said, “because we are desperately needing biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease for several reasons: for a more accurate diagnosis, especially in the preclinical stage and for a better gauge of disease severity. According to this paper, it seems that VILIP-1 can predict the rate of cognitive decline, which could be very helpful in the future in terms of determining whether or not a treatment is beneficial or not.”
Dr. Lai said “larger studies and more experience is needed, also by other groups of researchers, to see how reproducible the findings are. Right now, we have tau and (Aβ-42) and they are pretty good and pretty well established. Any additional biomarkers that would increase the accuracy or reliable would be great.”
Echoing this sentiment, Dr. Tarawneh said in a statement: “These results are intriguing, but we need a larger study to fully understand how the insights provided by VILIP-1 compare to those we can gain from other markers.” The researchers are now working to standardize the VILIP-1 immunoassay for expanded use in research.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Siemens Health Care Diagnostics, and the Charles and Joanne Knight Alzheimer Research Initiative. Dr. Tarawneh and Dr. Lai have disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Dr. Holtzman serves on scientific advisory boards for Satori Pharmaceuticals, C2N Diagnostics, and EnVivo Pharmaceuticals. A complete list of author disclosures is listed with the original article.