Efforts to develop a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease are progressing, as a new study co-authored by experts from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) found a group of biomarkers that hold up in statistical analyses in three independent groups of patients. The study, a unique collaborative effort between researchers at Penn, Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta and Washington University in St. Louis as well as the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), was just published online in Neurology.
Previous efforts to develop better and more clinically useful Alzheimer’s diagnostic tests, including research from Penn, have focused on spinal fluid biomarkers and radiologic tests like MRIs and PET scans. These newer tests can detect various levels of proteins implicated in the Alzheimer’s disease process, such as amyloid-beta and tau proteins.
In this study, researchers found that the levels or amounts of four different biomarkers detected in blood plasma were different in people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s, when compared to healthy controls. These protein biomarkers included: apolipoprotein E, B-type natriuretic peptide, C-reactive protein and pancreatic polypeptide.
This study is part of ADNI as well as independent studies conducted separately at Penn and Washington University. Investigators from Penn, Washington University and ADNI pooled and compared data sets to increase the analytical power of this study.
Future research will seek to validate this large multi-center study to determine how informative these biomarkers may be in research settings and clinical practice, develop standard protocols for their use in research and clinical settings, and ensure that a blood test for Alzheimer’s based on these new findings delivers accurate results consistently.
The study’s lead author, William Hu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, began this research when he was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The research team from Penn included Leslie M. Shaw, PhD, Steven E. Arnold, MD, Murray Grossman, MD, PhD, Christopher M. Clark, MD, Vivianna M. Van Deerlin, PhD, Leo McCluskey, MD, Lauren Elman, MD, Jason Karlawish, MD, Alice Chen-Plotkin, MD, PhD, Howard I. Hurtig, MD, Andrew Siderowf, MD, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, and John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD.