A collaborative research team from Cardiff University, King’s College London and University of Oxford (all UK) are in the process of developing a blood test that has the potential to detect biomarkers associated with the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The test may be utilized to predict whether an individual will develop AD.
The paper was recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Paul Morgan (Cardiff University) commented: “Our research proves that it is possible to predict whether or not an individual with mild memory problems is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the next few years.”
“We hope to build on this in order to develop a simple blood test that can predict the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease in older people with mild, and possibly innocent, memory impairment.”
Research has previously demonstrated the increasing significance of biomarkers, in particular to AD the identification of inflammatory biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid or plasma.
Therefore the team assumed a selective approach, focusing attention on the complement inflammatory pathway.
They studied blood samples from 292 participants, comprising individuals with Alzheimer’s, those with mild cognitive impairment and controls. Utilizing a novel multiplex assay, the team measured a variety of complement proteins and activation products.
The following year the participants were re-assessed. Approximately a quarter of those with mild cognitive impairment had progressed to AD.
These individuals demonstrated significant differences in the levels of three analytes – clusterin, factor I and terminal complement complex – when compared with non-converters.
Utilizing a model that combines these three analytes with informative co-variables demonstrated the ability to predict conversion, reaffirming the relevance of complement biomarkers and its use within multi-parameter models for disease prediction and stratification.
Morgan added, “Alzheimer’s disease affects around 520,000 people in the UK and this number is continually growing as the population ages. As such it is important that we find new ways to diagnose the disease early, giving us a chance to investigate and instigate new treatments before irreversible damage is done.”
Although still in the initial stages of development, the results of this research has laid the foundation for a larger study to be conducted by the Wellcome trust (London, UK), involving numerous UK universities and pharmaceutical companies, in the hopes of replicating the findings and refining the test for clinical use.
Sources: Morgan PB, Hakobyan S, Harding K et al. Complement Biomarkers as Predictors of Disease Progression in Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, doi: 10.3233/JAD-160420, (2016);
Cardiff University press release.