Nav: Home

Researchers find further link between a-fib, brain injury, and possible neurodegeneration

November 11, 2018

A new study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Session conference has found that patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) also show signs of asymptomatic brain injury.

Researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City enrolled 246 patients in the study: 198 with atrial fibrillation and 48 without AF. They then obtained plasma samples from Intermountain Healthcare's Intermountain Heart Collaborative INSPIRE registry and tested them for the circulating levels of four biomarkers associated with brain injury: glial specific GFAP and S100b; GDF15, a stress response marker; and neuron-specific au-protein.

They found that levels of three of those biomarkers - Tau, GDF15, and GFAP - were significantly higher in patients with atrial fibrillation. Findings from the study were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Session conference in Chicago.

"We think patients with atrial fibrillation experience chronic, subclinical cerebral injuries," said Oxana Galenko, PhD, a molecular biologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, and the study's lead investigator. "It becomes absolutely critical to identify the early markers of this injury and help these patients who are at higher risk of having subsequent neurodegenerative problems, such as cognitive decline and dementia."

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and sometimes rapid heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems. Between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans suffer from the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It causes 750,000 hospitalizations and 130,000 deaths each year.

If people with atrial fibrillation are indeed suffering from ongoing brain injuries, they can also be at higher risk of developing everything from depression to neurodegeneration, which is the deterioration or death of the body's nerve cells, especially neurons in the brain, which could cause losses in mental function, said Dr. Galenko.

Dr. Galenko said that could be because atrial fibrillation alters blood flow through the body, including to and from the brain, which could lead to cerebral injury and disruption of the blood-brain barrier, which filters blood to and from the brain and spinal cord. If it's not working correctly, neuro-specific molecules like GFAP and Tau get into the bloodstream, which was seen in this study.

Dr. Galenko said the next step is to do the same kind of analysis on a larger group of patients. She also said recent results from the Swiss Atrial Fibrillation Cohort Study points in the same direction -- that atrial fibrillation causes brain injury. In the study, researchers performed MRIs on atrial fibrillation patients and found that 41 percent showed signs of at least one kind of a silent brain damage.

She believes a blood test would be the way to move forward if a method was developed to see which atrial fibrillation patients are also experiencing brain injury, for the simple reason that it's a lot cheaper and easier to do than an MRI.

"At this stage, we're at the very beginning of studying this link, but it's a step forward toward addressing the problem," she said.
-end-


Intermountain Medical Center

Related Atrial Fibrillation Articles:

Sleep apnea may increase atrial fibrillation risk
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF), according to new research presented at the ATS 2017 International Conference.
New study identifies biomarker that may indicate risk of atrial fibrillation
Researchers have identified a microRNA biomarker that demonstrates a strong association with the incidence of atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm.
More women with atrial fibrillation die after ER discharge than men
A new study from the University of Alberta adds to the growing evidence that women with cardiovascular disease may receive different health care from men -- and experience worse outcomes.
Big women have nearly threefold greater risk of atrial fibrillation
Big women have a nearly threefold greater risk of atrial fibrillation than small women, according to research presented today at EuroPrevent 2017.
Most atrial fibrillation patients don't get preventive drug before stroke
More than 80 percent of stroke patients with a history of atrial fibrillation either received not enough or no anticoagulation therapy prior to having a stroke, despite the drugs' proven record of reducing stroke risk, according to a Duke Clinical Research Institute study.
More than half of atrial fibrillation patients become asymptomatic after catheter ablation
More than half of patients with atrial fibrillation become asymptomatic after catheter ablation, reports the largest study of the procedure published today in European Heart Journal.
Medication adherence a problem in atrial fibrillation patients
Anticoagulant therapy is important for stroke prevention in people with atrial fibrillation, but a new study shows many people don't stick with it.
Atrial fibrillation patients are at increased risk of dementia, regardless of anticoagulation use
Atrial fibrillation patients who use the drug, warfarin, to prevent harmful blood clots from forming in their hearts to lower risk of stroke are at higher risk of developing dementia than patients who use warfarin for non-atrial fibrillation conditions, according to a new study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.
iPhone camera application may detect atrial fibrillation
A smartphone application made it possible to use the iPhone camera to detect atrial fibrillation via facial signals and without physical contact, according to a preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016.
Study reports progress in preventing bleeding in atrial fibrillation
A new study led by clinician-researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center testing the safety and effectiveness of anticoagulant strategies for patients with atrial fibrillation who undergo stenting procedures has shown that therapies combining the anticoagulant drug rivaroxaban with either single or dual anti-platelet therapy were more effective in preventing bleeding complications than the current standard of care.

Related Atrial Fibrillation Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".