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Title: Blood and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease : from clinical to preclinical cohorts
Author: Keshavan, Ashvini
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 5561
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Dementia is a major contributor to global morbidity, mortality and costs associated with health and social care. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a common pathology culminating in dementia, but it has a preclinical phase of one to two decades, with early brain deposition of amyloid and tau, followed by synaptic and neuronal degeneration. Early detection during the preclinical phase of AD might enable disease-modifying therapies to be applied during a window of opportunity in which they would be more likely to work. Currently the main biomarkers of AD pathology are neuroimaging markers, which can be costly, or cerebrospinal fluid markers, which require invasive sampling. Blood biomarkers would be relatively less invasive and could be a more cost-effective means for risk stratification, early detection, monitoring progression and measuring response to treatment. The work described here used sensitive assay technology including the Simoa digital immunoassay platform, in large and well-characterised cohorts, to examine candidate blood biomarkers linked to the core AD pathologies of amyloid, tau and neurodegeneration, as specified by the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer's Association 2018 research framework. Firstly, experiments on samples from a cognitive clinic cohort established the stability of the blood biomarkers Aβ40, Aβ42, total tau and neurofilament light chain (NFL - a marker of neurodegeneration) to multiple freeze-thaw cycles, and the optimal blood fraction to use for quantifying each of these biomarkers in onward studies. Secondly, an unique large preclinical cohort with life course data (Insight 46, the neuroscience sub-study of 502 individuals from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development; the 1946 British birth cohort) was used to examine the cross-sectional relationships between these blood biomarkers, neuroimaging biomarkers (18F-florbetapir amyloid PET, whole brain and hippocampal volumes, white matter hyperintensity volume and cortical thickness in an AD signature region) and cognitive performance (PACC: preclinical Alzheimer's composite and its constituents). Through a collaboration with the University of Gothenburg, a novel liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method for quantification of plasma amyloid-β species was compared with the commercial Simoa assays in Insight 46. This was the first direct method comparison study of plasma amyloid-β species for the detection of preclinical cerebral amyloid deposition. It showed that the LC-MS method, when combined with age, sex and APOE #-4 carrier status, was able to distinguish PET amyloid status with an optimal (Youden's cut point) sensitivity of 85.7% and specificity of 72.7%. The Simoa biomarkers of plasma total tau and serum NFL were confirmed to be potentially useful prognostic markers, as lower AD signature cortical thickness was associated with higher plasma total tau and serum NFL, lower whole brain volume was associated with higher plasma total tau, and higher ventricular volume was associated with higher serum NFL. Lower PACC scores were associated with higher serum NFL and lower scores for a paired associative memory test in particular were associated with higher plasma total tau and serum NFL. Thirdly, through a collaboration with Harvard University and the University of California San Diego, a new N-terminal tau biomarker was developed in CSF and plasma that showed good accuracy in distinguishing individuals with symptomatic CSF-defined AD pathology from healthy controls. Taken together, this work has demonstrated the impact of pre-analytical factors on measurements of AD blood biomarkers, validated these biomarkers as indicators of the core pathologies of AD and helped to develop a new tau blood biomarker in AD.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available