Islamabad - Scientists have discovered a chemical in blood that indicates whether people will have declining brain function.

Looking for the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, they analysed levels of 1,129 proteins circulating in the blood of more than 200 twins.

These were compared with data from cognitive-function tests over the next decade, in Translational Psychiatry. And levels of one protein, MAPKAPK5, tended to be lower in those people whose brains declined.

MAPKAPK5 is involved in relaying chemical messages within the body, although its connection with cognitive decline is unclear. Dementia cases are expected to treble globally by 2050, but there is no cure or treatment. It can take more than a decade from the first changes in the brain to culminate in symptoms such as memory loss, confusion and personality change.And drug companies believe they need to treat patients’ years before symptoms appear in order to protect the brain.

‘Long way off’

Dr Steven Kiddle, a Medical Research Council scientist at King’s College London said, “People think it may be hard to reverse 20 years of potential damage to your brain. “But if you could start much earlier in that process, then you might be able to find something that works.” He said a blood test could help identify people for clinical trials. He added, “A test you could go in to your doctor to say, ‘Do I have Alzheimer’s disease or not?’ I think that’s a long way off.”

Dr Eric Karran, from the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “This study associated blood levels of a protein called MAPKAPK5 with cognitive decline over a 10-year period, but it will be necessary to investigate more about a possible mechanism linking this protein to changes in memory and thinking.”

“Current diagnosis of diseases like Alzheimer’s is not an exact science, and we urgently need to improve approaches to deliver more timely and accurate diagnosis.

“Accurate and early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s will be essential for the development of new treatments.”

Meanwhile, a new study shows that simple tongue and mouth exercises can slash the frequency of snoring and how loud it sounds. Snoring usually happens when muscles in the throat, tongue, and roof of the mouth relax to the point that they partially block your airway and vibrate when you breathe. This creates the annoying sound. In the case of obstructive sleep apnoea, the airway blockage is much more significant, sometimes impeding breathing altogether until the lack of airflow jolts you awake.

To see what would happen if you firm those throat and mouth muscles up, Brazilian researchers conducted a study using patients who either had mild sleep apnoea or whose chronic snoring wasn’t caused by an underlying condition. They trained half of the participants to do four tongue and mouth exercises. The regimen included pressing the tip of the tongue against the roof and sliding it backward, sucking the tongue upward and pressing it against the roof of the mouth, forcing the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the bottom front teeth, and elevating the back of the roof and uvula while saying the letter “A.”

This group of snorers performed each of these exercises 20 times, three times a day, for the next three months. Meanwhile, the other half of the participants wore nasal breathing strips and simply performed deep-breathing exercises. By the end of the study, the latter group saw no significant improvements in their snoring. But those who performed the tongue and mouth exercises snored 36 per cent less than they had previously and slashed their snoring power by 59 per cent.