Researchers from the University of Gothenburg have found out convincing proof that an in-house developed blood test for Alzheimer’s disease can detect the disease early and track its course. This can have major implications for potential use in clinical practice and treatment trials.
Three papers related to this research recently appeared in the journals Molecular Psychiatry, Brain and JAMA Neurology.
We know that Alzheimer’s disease-related memory problems are just the tip of the iceberg of underlying degenerative processes in the brain that have been silently developing over years or even decades.
These processes result from an abnormal aggregation of amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, with these aggregates being the defining pathological features of Alzheimer’s disease. The only possible way to detect these protein aggregates was to find them in the brains of deceased patients at autopsy.
However, the recent developments allowed us to have accurate detection of amyloid and tau pathology in the brain with imaging methods and in the cerebrospinal fluid of living individuals. These current so-called biomarker methods are either expensive, invasive, or only available at specialized centers; thus, only a fraction of patients suffering from the disease currently benefit from these advances.
An easily accessible and minimally invasive biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease would revolutionize the care of patients worldwide, and boost the development of novel drugs for this presently still incurable disease.
Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have discovered such a biomarker which is a cheap blood test, capable to detect the presence of phosphorylated protein ( p-tau181) which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Three recent scientific articles from the same study group now focus on the diagnostic performance of this blood marker and how it changes over time during healthy ageing and during disease.
The authors showed great potential for the blood test to predict and monitor Alzheimer’s disease progression in an unprecedented comprehensive study comprising over 1100 subjects from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimage Initiative (ADNI), followed up over several years.
First authors of the studies are Thomas Karikari (the article in Molecular Psychiatry) and Alexis Moscoso (Brain and JAMA Neurology).
Moscoso added that these recent developments of blood tests sensitive to Alzheimer’s disease pathology is likely to provide a solution and has the potential to significantly change the way this disease can be managed soon.
In the publication in Brain, the researchers analyzed participants’ blood samples acquired at different ages to construct the temporal trajectory of p-tau181 levels in blood across the long course of Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Moscoso A, Grothe MJ, Ashton NJ, et al. Longitudinal Associations of Blood Phosphorylated Tau181 and Neurofilament Light Chain With Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer Disease. JAMA Neurol. Published online January 11, 2021. DOI:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.4986
2. Alexis Moscoso, Michel J Grothe, Nicholas J Ashton, Thomas K Karikari, Juan Lantero Rodriguez, Anniina Snellman, Marc Suárez-Calvet, Henrik Zetterberg, Kaj Blennow, Michael Schöll, for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, Time course of phosphorylated-tau181 in blood across the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum, Brain, awaa399, DOI: 10.1093/brain/awaa399
3. Karikari, T.K., Benedet, A.L., Ashton, N.J. et al. Diagnostic performance and prediction of clinical progression of plasma phospho-tau181 in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Mol Psychiatry (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41380-020-00923-z
Press Release: University of Gothenburg