A new study from Lund University in Sweden shows that validated biomarkers can reveal an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Using a model that combines the levels of two specific proteins in the blood of those with mild memory impairment, the researchers are able to predict the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The researchers have also developed an app that doctors can use to give patients a risk assessment.

Many people with Alzheimer’s disease currently seek care when they have only developed mild memory impairment, meaning many years before the dementia stage of the disease. It is often difficult for doctors to give the correct diagnosis in people with mild memory impairment, as many different conditions other than Alzheimer’s can be the cause.

In this study we developed a model that is based on the results of a simple blood test and that with a high degree of validity can predict who will develop Alzheimer’s dementia within four years.
Oskar Hansson, professor in neurology at Lund University and consultant at the clinical memory research unit at Skåne University Hospital.


Among the many biomarkers the researchers have investigated over the years, the current study shows that a model combining the concentration and levels of the two proteins ‘phosphorylated tau’ and ‘neurofilamet light’ in the blood is the one that gives the most reliable result and prognosis comparable to today’s cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) analyses. The model also provides a more reliable answer than the current basic model involving age, gender, education and basic memory tests.

In addition to this initial evaluation, the methods that are currently on offer for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease are costly and time-consuming methods using PET cameras and CSF analyses, which are only available in certain specialist healthcare settings.

Our goal over the last few years has been to find simple methods that can be used in primary care to make an early diagnosis and to begin treatment to relieve symptoms at an earlier stage. This will require more studies, but we have absolutely come one major step closer to our goal.
Oskar Hansson


The researchers have also developed an online tool – an app – that combines basic data (age, gender, education and basic cognition tests) with results from the individual’s biomarkers in the blood. Taken together, these provide information about an individual patient’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease within two or four years.

The app is currently only intended for research and must be validated in more studies before it can be used in healthcare. The app is available at: https://brainapps.shinyapps.io/plasmaatnapp/

 

Read Press Release

 


Further information

The study involved a total of 573 people with mild cognitive impairment and an average age of 71. The participants, who represented a selection of individuals, came from the two major multi-centre studies: the Swedish BioFinder Study and ADNI, the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. 

The study was led by Oskar Hansson and Niklas Mattsson-Carlgren from Lund University and is a collaboration with Henrik Zetterberg and Kaj Blennow at the Sahlgrenska Academy and Sahlgrenska University Hospital, the Clinical Neurochemistry Laboratory in Mölndal and the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, among others.

Publication in Nature Aging
Individualized prognosis of cognitive decline and dementia in mild cognitive impairment based on plasma biomarker combinations

Contact
Oskar Hansson, professor in neurology at the clinical memory research unit, Lund University, Sweden

Tel.: +46 72 226 7745

E-mail: oskar.hansson@med.lu.se