Evaluation of Associations of Growth Differentiation Factor-11, Growth Differentiation Factor-8, and Their Binding Proteins Follistatin and Follistatin-Like Protein-3 With Dementia and Cognition.

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JGM, Humans, Aged, Myostatin, Follistatin, Carrier Proteins, Growth Differentiation Factors, Cognition, Atrophy, Dementia

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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2023;78(11):2039-47.








BACKGROUND: Studies using heterochronic parabiosis discovered that circulating factors mediate brain aging in animal models.

METHODS: We assessed growth differentiation factors (GDF)-11 and GDF-8 using mass spectrometry and inhibitors follistatin and follistatin-like protein-3 (FSTL-3) with ELISA in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS; N = 1 506) and the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study (N = 1 237). CLL-11 and beta-2 microglobulin (β2M) were measured with ELISA in a subset of 400 individuals in Health ABC. Associations were assessed with cognitive function, brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings (CHS only), and incident dementia using correlations, linear regression, and Cox proportional hazards models.

RESULTS: In CHS, levels of GDF-11, GDF-8, and follistatin were not correlated cross-sectionally with the 3MSE or DSST, brain MRI findings of white matter hyperintensity, atrophy, or small infarcts, nor were they associated with incident dementia. FSTL-3 was modestly correlated with poorer cognitive function, greater white matter hyperintensities, and atrophy on MRI, as well as with incident dementia with an adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 1.72 (95% CI = 1.13, 2.61) per doubling of FSTL-3. FSTL-3 was not associated with cognition or dementia in Health ABC, but GDF-8 was associated with both. The adjusted HR for incident dementia was 1.50 (95% CI = 1.07, 2.10) per doubling of GDF-8.

CONCLUSIONS: Total GDF-11 level was not related to cognition or dementia in older adults. Associations of GDF-8 with cognitive outcomes in Health ABC were not expected, but consistent with animal models. Associations of FSTL-3 with cognition, brain abnormalities, and incident dementia in CHS implicate TGFβ superfamily inhibition in the pathogenesis of dementia.