Brain Health: May-June 2024

Potential Early Biomarker for Alzheimer’s Disease Identified: A Science Alert Update

Ella Bennet

May 20, 2024 (The UBJ) – Despite the absence of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have made a promising discovery: a potential biomarker that could signal the presence of the disease before any symptoms manifest. This discovery could pave the way for early intervention treatments and provide deeper insights into the disease’s progression.

The biomarker, a microRNA molecule known as miR-519a-3p, was identified by a research team from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the University of Barcelona. The researchers believe that this biomarker could serve as an important early warning tool for Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings from the study, which point to elevated levels of miR-519a-3p in individuals with Alzheimer’s, were led by neuroscientist José Antonio del Río of IBEC. He emphasizes the usefulness of detecting this microRNA for improving the accuracy of early-stage diagnosis.

MicroRNA molecules such as miR-519a-3p are small, non-coding RNA fragments that aid in the regulation of protein production within cells. These molecules are stable throughout the body and readily detectable in biological fluids, making them ideal candidates for biomarkers.

Notably, miR-519a-3p is connected with the cellular production of prion protein (PrPC), which was already suspected to play a role in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, the concentration of PrPC seems to fall off as Alzheimer’s advances.

Through research analyzing brain tissue from deceased Alzheimer’s patients and subsequent chemical tests, it was determined that miR-519a-3p is instrumental in lowering the production of PrPC.

The possibility of miR-519a-3p being an indicator of early Alzheimer’s is backed by solid evidence, though it is not yet confirmed. To ensure the specificity of miR-519a-3p as an Alzheimer’s marker, neuroscientist Rosalina Gavín points out the importance of confirming that this biomarker does not fluctuate with other neurodegenerative conditions.

Significant progress in various facets of Alzheimer’s research has been made, including understanding how PrPC decreases as the disease worsens and how to potentially employ this in early detection. This is just one of the many early warning signals identified by scientists in recent times, eventually leading to a combined methodology for early Alzheimer’s detection.

Future research aims include validating miR-519a-3p as a biomarker within blood samples from patient cohorts to eventually integrate it into the clinical diagnosis process, as advocated by neuroscientist Dayaneth Jácome from IBEC.

The study has been published in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular Basis of Disease.

FAQ Section

What is a biomarker?

A biomarker is a measurable substance in the body that is indicative of some biological state or condition. It can be used to detect or monitor diseases, measure the effects of treatments, or assess the health of an individual.

Why is the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease important?

Early detection of Alzheimer’s allows for the possibility of slowing the progression of the disease through early intervention treatments, as well as providing the opportunity for patients and their families to plan for the future.

Is miR-519a-3p found only in Alzheimer’s patients?

Current research suggests that miR-519a-3p levels are specifically altered in Alzheimer’s disease but not in other neurodegenerative diseases. This specificity makes it a potentially powerful biomarker for early diagnosis.

What is the next step in the research involving miR-519a-3p?

The next phase is to validate miR-519a-3p as a biomarker in blood samples from larger patient cohorts to confirm its effectiveness in the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.


The discovery of microRNA molecule miR-519a-3p as a potential biomarker offers hope for the early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. This is an exciting development as it provides a non-invasive way to potentially detect the disease before the onset of symptoms. More research is needed to validate these findings and translate them into a clinical setting, but the prospects for earlier detection of Alzheimer’s are promising.


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