Recently published guidelines suggest that the most opportune time to treat individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is during the preclinical phase of the disease. This is a phase when individuals are defined as clinically normal but exhibit evidence of amyloidosis, neurodegeneration and subtle cognitive/behavioral decline. While our standard cognitive tests are useful for detecting cognitive decline at the stage of mild cognitive impairment, they were not designed for detecting the subtle cognitive variations associated with this biomarker stage of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. However, neuropsychologists are attempting to meet this challenge by designing newer cognitive measures and questionnaires derived from translational efforts in neuroimaging, cognitive neuroscience and clinical/experimental neuropsychology. This review is a selective summary of several novel, potentially promising, approaches that are being explored for detecting early cognitive evidence of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease in presymptomatic individuals.
The spectrum of mixed brain pathologies expands beyond accompanying vascular pathology in brains with Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology. Co-occurrence of neurodegenerative non-Alzheimer’s disease-type proteinopathies is increasingly recognized to be a frequent event in the brains of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, particularly in older people. Owing to the evolving concept of neurodegenerative diseases, clinical and neuropathological diagnostic criteria have changed during the last decades. Autopsy-based studies differ in the selection criteria and also in the applied staining methods used. The present review summarizes the prevalence of mixed brain pathologies reported in recent community-based studies. In these cohorts, irrespective of the clinical symptoms, the frequency of Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology is between 19 and 67%, of Lewy body pathology is between 6 and 39%, of vascular pathologies is between 28 and 70%, of TDP-43 proteinopathy is between 13 and 46%, of hippocampal sclerosis is between 3 and 13% and, finally, of mixed pathologies is between 10 and 74%. Some studies also mention tauopathies. White-matter pathologies are not discussed specifically in all studies, although these lesions may be present in more than 80% of the aging brains. In summary, community-based neuropathology studies have shown that complex constellations of underlying pathologies may lead to cognitive decline, and that the number of possible combinations increases in the aging brain. These observations have implications for the prediction of the prognosis, for the development of biomarkers or therapy targets, or for the stratification of patient cohorts for genome-wide studies or, eventually, for therapy trials.
The β-secretase enzyme, β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), cleaves amyloid precursor protein (APP) in the first step in β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide production. Thus, BACE1 is a key target for candidate disease-modifying treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. In a previous exploratory Aβ biomarker study, we found that BACE1 inhibitor treatment resulted in decreased levels of Aβ1-34 together with increased Aβ5-40, suggesting that these Aβ species may be novel pharmacodynamic biomarkers in clinical trials. We have now examined whether the same holds true in humans.
In an investigator-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized study, healthy subjects (n =18) were randomly assigned to receive a single dose of 30 mg of LY2811376 (n =6), 90 mg of LY2811376 (n =6), or placebo (n =6). We used hybrid immunoaffinity-mass spectrometry (HI-MS) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to monitor a variety of Aβ peptides.
Here, we demonstrate dose-dependent changes in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) Aβ1-34, Aβ5-40 and Aβ5-X after treatment with the BACE1-inhibitor LY2811376. Aβ5-40 and Aβ5-X increased dose-dependently, as reflected by two independent methods, while Aβ1-34 dose-dependently decreased.
Using HI-MS for the first time in a study where subjects have been treated with a BACE inhibitor, we confirm that CSF Aβ1-34 may be useful in clinical trials on BACE1 inhibitors to monitor target engagement. Since it is less hydrophobic than longer Aβ species, it is less susceptible to preanalytical confounding factors and may thus be a more stable marker. By independent measurement techniques, we also show that BACE1 inhibition in humans is associated with APP-processing into N-terminally truncated Aβ peptides via a BACE1-independent pathway.
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00838084. Registered: First received: January 23, 2009, Last updated: July 14, 2009, Last verified: July 2009.
In the past decade, Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery has been directed at ‘disease modifying drugs’ that are able to counteract the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by intervening in specific parts of its neuropathological process. Passive immunization with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) may be able to clear toxic amyloid-β species either directly or through microglia or complement activation, thereby halting the amyloid cascade and preventing neurodegeneration and cognitive and functional decline. Thus far, results from two large phase 3 trial programs with bapineuzumab and solaneuzumab, respectively, have brought rather disappointing results. Possible explanations could be that these compounds were either targeting the wrong amyloid-β species, or were given too late in the disease process. Several new mAbs targeting various amyloid-β epitopes are now being tested in ongoing phase 2 and 3 clinical trials. The present review discusses the various mAbs aimed at amyloid-β, summarizes trial results and provides an outlook for the future.
Two methods of non-invasive brain stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), have demonstrable positive effects on cognition and can ameliorate neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression. Less is known about the efficacy of these approaches in common neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we evaluate the effects of TMS and tDCS upon cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms in the major dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), as well as the potential pre-dementia states of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Parkinson’s disease (PD).
PubMed (until 7 February 2014) and PsycINFO (from 1967 to January Week 3 2014) databases were searched in a semi-systematic manner in order to identify relevant treatment studies. A total of 762 studies were identified and 32 studies (18 in the dementias and 14 in PD populations) were included.
No studies were identified in patients with PDD, FTD or VaD. Of the dementias, 13 studies were conducted in patients with AD, one in DLB, and four in MCI. A total of 16 of the 18 studies showed improvements in at least one cognitive or neuropsychiatric outcome measure. Cognitive or neuropsychiatric improvements were observed in 12 of the 14 studies conducted in patients with PD.
Both TMS and tDCS may have potential as interventions for the treatment of symptoms associated with dementia and PD. These results are promising; however, available data were limited, particularly within VaD, PDD and FTD, and major challenges exist in order to maximise the efficacy and clinical utility of both techniques. In particular, stimulation parameters vary considerably between studies and are likely to subsequently impact upon treatment efficacy.
With 27 million people affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD), any proposal of a novel avenue for drug development is hot news. When Cramer and colleagues proposed last year that they could tackle AD pathology in an AD mouse model with bexarotene, a drug already in use in the clinic for other diseases, the news was covered worldwide by the popular press. Apolipoprotein E4 is the strongest genetic risk factor for AD and bexarotene appeared to exert spectacular effects on AD pathology when tested in APP/PS1 transgenic mice. One year later the slumbering discussion on the use of bexarotene in AD exploded in a flurry of papers. Four papers question the initial optimistic claims, while two others can only partially support the original work. We summarize here the available data and try to make sense out of the controversy. The major question is what we can learn from the experiments and what these studies imply for the further development of bexarotene in the clinic.
Recently, a whole-exome sequencing (WES) study showed that a rare variant rs145999145 composed of p.Val232Met located in exon 7 of the phospholipase D3 (PLD3) gene confers a doubled risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Knockdown of PLD3 elevates the levels of extracellular amyloid-beta (Aβ), suggesting that PLD3 acts as a negative regulator of Aβ precursor protein (APP) processing. However, the precise cellular location and distribution of PLD3 in AD brains remain largely unknown.
By quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR), western blot, immunohistochemistry, and bioinformatics analysis, we studied PLD3 expression patterns and levels in a series of AD and control brains, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, and non-neurological cases.
The levels of PLD3 mRNA and protein expression were reduced modestly in AD brains, compared with those in non-AD brains. In all brains, PLD3 was expressed constitutively in cortical neurons, hippocampal pyramidal and granular neurons but not in glial cells. Notably, PLD3 immunoreactivity was accumulated on neuritic plaques in AD brains. We identified the human granulin (GRN) gene encoding progranulin (PRGN) as one of most significant genes coexpressed with PLD3 by bioinformatics database search. PLD3 was actually coexpressed and interacted with PGRN both in cultured cells in vitro and in AD brains in vivo.
We identified an intense accumulation of PLD3 on neuritic plaques coexpressed with PGRN in AD brains, suggesting that PLD3 plays a key role in the pathological processes of AD.
Autophagy serves as the sole catabolic mechanism for degrading organelles and protein aggregates. Increasing evidence implicates autophagic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases associated with protein misprocessing and accumulation. Under physiologic conditions, the autophagic/lysosomal system efficiently recycles organelles and substrate proteins. However, reduced autophagy function leads to the accumulation of proteins and autophagic and lysosomal vesicles. These vesicles contain toxic lysosomal hydrolases as well as the proper cellular machinery to generate amyloid-beta, the major component of AD plaques. Here, we provide an overview of current research focused on the relevance of autophagic/lysosomal dysfunction in AD pathogenesis as well as potential therapeutic targets aimed at restoring autophagic/lysosomal pathway function.
Therapeutic education is expanding in the management of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. Several studies have revealed a positive impact of therapeutic educational programmes on the caregiver’s burden and/or quality of life. However, to date, no study has evaluated its impact on the quality of life of the AD patient.
The THERAD study (THerapeutic Education in Alzheimer’s Disease) is a 12-month randomised controlled trial that started in January 2013. This paper describes the study protocol. THERAD plans to enroll 170 dyads (AD patient and caregiver) on the basis of the following criteria: patient at a mild to moderately severe stage of AD, living at home, receiving support from a family caregiver. The main outcome is the patient’s quality of life assessed by the Logsdon QoL-AD scale at 2 months, reported by the caregiver. The study is being led by geriatricians trained in therapeutic education at Toulouse University Hospital in France. To date, 107 caregiver/patient dyads have been recruited.
This is the first trial designed to assess the specific impact of a therapeutic educational programme on the AD patient’s quality of life. The final results will be available in 2015.
[ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01796314] Registered 19 February 2013
α-Synuclein is an abundantly expressed neuronal protein that is at the center of
focus in understanding a group of neurodegenerative disorders called
α-synucleinopathies, which are characterized by the presence of aggregated
α-synuclein intracellularly. Primary α-synucleinopathies include
Parkinson’s disease (PD), dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system
atrophy, with α-synuclein also found secondarily in a number of other diseases,
including Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding how α-synuclein aggregates
form in these different disorders is important for the understanding of its
pathogenesis in Lewy body diseases. PD is the most prevalent of the
α-synucleinopathies and much of the initial research on α-synuclein Lewy
body pathology was based on PD but is also relevant to Lewy bodies in other diseases
(dementia with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease). Polymorphism and mutation
studies of SNCA, the gene that encodes α-synuclein, provide much
evidence for a causal link between α-synuclein and PD. Among the primary
α-synucleinopathies, multiple system atrophy is unique in that α-synuclein
deposition occurs in oligodendrocytes rather than neurons. It is unclear whether
α-synuclein originates from oligodendrocytes or whether it is transmitted
somehow from neurons. α-Synuclein exists as a natively unfolded monomer in the
cytosol, but in the presence of lipid membranes it is thought to undergo a
conformational change to a folded α-helical secondary structure that is prone to
forming dimers and oligomers. Posttranslational modification of α-synuclein,
such as phosphorylation, ubiquitination and nitration, has been widely implicated in
α-synuclein aggregation process and neurotoxicity. Recent studies using animal
and cell models, as well as autopsy studies of patients with neuron transplants,
provided compelling evidence for prion-like propagation of α-synuclein. This
observation has implications for therapeutic strategies, and much recent effort is
focused on developing antibodies that target extracellular α-synuclein.
Accumulation and aggregation of the microtubule-associated protein tau are a pathological hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In AD, tau becomes abnormally phosphorylated and forms inclusions throughout the brain, starting in the entorhinal cortex and progressively affecting additional brain regions as the disease progresses. Formation of these inclusions is thought to lead to synapse loss and cell death. Tau is also found in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and elevated levels are a biomarker for AD. Until recently, it was thought that the presence of tau in the CSF was due to the passive release of aggregated tau from dead or dying tangle-bearing neurons. However, accumulating evidence from different AD model systems suggests that tau is actively secreted and transferred between synaptically connected neurons. Transgenic mouse lines with localized expression of aggregating human tau in the entorhinal cortex have demonstrated that, as these animals age, tau becomes mislocalized from axons to cell bodies and dendrites and that human tau-positive aggregates form first in the entorhinal cortex and later in downstream projection targets. Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have provided insight into the mechanisms by which tau may be released and internalized by neurons and have started to provide insight into how tau pathology may spread in AD. In this review, we discuss the evidence for regulated tau release and its specific uptake by neurons. Furthermore, we identify possible therapeutic targets for preventing the propagation of tau pathology, as inhibition of tau transfer may restrict development of tau tangles in a small subset of neurons affected in early stages of AD and therefore prevent widespread neuron loss and cognitive dysfunction associated with later stages of the disease.
The identification of early, preferably presymptomatic, biomarkers and true etiologic factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the first step toward establishing effective primary and secondary prevention programs. Consequently, the search for a relatively inexpensive and harmless biomarker for AD continues. Despite intensive research worldwide, to date there is no definitive plasma or blood biomarker indicating high or low risk of conversion to AD.
Magnetic resonance imaging and β-amyloid (Aβ) levels in three blood compartments (diluted in plasma, undiluted in plasma and cell-bound) were measured in 96 subjects (33 with mild cognitive impairment, 14 with AD and 49 healthy controls). Pearson correlations were completed between 113 regions of interest (ROIs) (45 subcortical and 68 cortical) and Aβ levels. Pearson correlation analyses adjusted for the covariates age, sex, apolipoprotein E (ApoE), education and creatinine levels showed neuroimaging ROIs were associated with Aβ levels. Two statistical methods were applied to study the major relationships identified: (1) Pearson correlation with phenotype added as a covariate and (2) a meta-analysis stratified by phenotype. Neuroimaging data and plasma Aβ measurements were taken from 630 Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) subjects to be compared with our results.
The left hippocampus was the brain region most correlated with Aβ(1–40) bound to blood cell pellets (partial correlation (pcor) = −0.37, P = 0.0007) after adjustment for the covariates age, gender and education, ApoE and creatinine levels. The correlation remained almost the same (pcor = −0.35, P = 0.002) if phenotype is also added as a covariate. The association between both measurements was independent of cognitive status. The left hemisphere entorhinal cortex also correlated with Aβ(1–40) cell-bound fraction. AB128 and ADNI plasma Aβ measurements were not related to any brain morphometric measurement.
Association of cell-bound Aβ(1–40) in blood with left hippocampal volume was much stronger than previously observed in Aβ plasma fractions. If confirmed, this observation will require careful interpretation and must be taken into account for blood amyloid-based biomarker development.
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) has become the second most common neurodegenerative dementia due to demographic ageing. Differential diagnosis is still troublesome especially in early stages of the disease, since there is a great clinical and neuropathological overlap primarily with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, more specific biomarkers, not only for scientific reasons but also for clinical therapeutic decision-making, are urgently needed. In this review, we summarize the knowledge on fluid biomarkers for DLB, derived predominantly from cerebrospinal fluid. We discuss the value of well-defined markers (β-amyloid, (phosphorylated) tau, α-synuclein) as well as some promising ‘upcoming’ substances, which still have to be further evaluated.
Diagnostic effectiveness of Ioflupane I 123 injection (DaTSCAN™, DaTscan™, or [123I]FP-CIT or ioflupane [123I]) SPECT imaging, was assessed in patients with clinically uncertain parkinsonian syndrome (CUPS).
We investigated the association between subject’s Hoehn & Yahr (H&Y) stage, Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), age, and motor symptom subgroups and diagnostic performance of ioflupane [123I] imaging. Phase 4 study data were used to calculate sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value, and accuracy in 92 CUPS subjects, using 1-year clinical diagnosis after ioflupane [123I] imaging as reference standard.
Diagnostic effectiveness of ioflupane [123I] imaging was high in all subgroups: 91% to 100% for H&Y low (<2) and high (≥2) stage subjects; 93% to 96% for MMSE low (<29) or high (≥29) scores; 91% to100% in both age subgroups (younger [<68] and older [≥68]); and 92% to 100% in subjects with both tremor dominant and balanced motor signs. Specificity of ioflupane [123I] imaging for bradykinetic rigid or posturally (BRP) unstable motor subtype was lower, but better than for baseline clinical diagnosis.
Strongest diagnostic performance of ioflupane [123I] imaging for clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s syndrome (PS) or non-PS was associated with tremor and balanced motor dominance rather than with BRP dominance. High diagnostic effectiveness of ioflupane [123I] imaging and favourable performance relative to final clinical diagnosis at 1 year post-scan in subjects with CUPS was demonstrated. This study suggests that the diagnostic performance of ioflupane [123I] imaging in CUPS remains high at all stages of disease, including early stage, and across both age groups and cognitive state (MMSE).
Compared to Alzheimer’s disease (AD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is usually associated with a more complex clinical picture and higher burden of care. Yet, few investigations have been performed on comorbidities and risk factors of DLB. Therefore, we aimed to compare clinical risk factors and comorbidity profile in DLB and AD patients using two nationwide registries.
This is a linkage study between the Swedish dementia registry (SveDem) and the Swedish National Patient Registry conducted on 634 subjects with DLB and 9161 individuals with AD registered during the years 2007–2012. Comorbidity profile has been coded according to the International Classification of Diseases version 10 (ICD 10) in addition to the date of each event. The main chapters of the ICD-10, the Charlson score of comorbidities and a selected number of neuropsychiatric diseases were compared between the DLB and AD groups. Comorbidity was registered before and after the dementia diagnosis.
“Mental and behavioral disorders”, “diseases of the nervous system”, “diseases of the eye and adnexa”, diseases of the “circulatory”, “respiratory”, and “genitourinary” systems, “diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue” and “diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue” occurred more frequently in the DLB group after multivariate adjustment. Depression [adjusted OR = 2.12 (95%CI 1.49 to 3.03)] and migraine [adjusted OR = 3.65 (95%CI 1.48 to 9.0)] were more commonly recorded before the diagnosis of dementia in the DLB group. Following dementia diagnosis, ischemic stroke [adjusted OR = 1.89 (95%CI 1.21 to 2.96)] was more likely to happen among the DLB patients compared to the AD population.
Our study indicated a worse comorbidity profile in DLB patients with higher occurrence of depression, stroke and migraine compared with the AD group. Deeper knowledge about the underlying mechanisms of these associations is needed to explore possible reasons for the different pattern of comorbidity profile in DLB compared to AD and their prognostic significance.
The long-term consequences of repetitive head impacts have been described since the
early 20th century. Terms such as punch drunk and dementia pugilistica were first
used to describe the clinical syndromes experienced by boxers. A more generic
designation, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), has been employed since the
mid-1900s and has been used in recent years to describe a neurodegenerative disease
found not just in boxers but in American football players, other contact sport
athletes, military veterans, and others with histories of repetitive brain trauma,
including concussions and subconcussive trauma. This article reviews the literature
of the clinical manifestations of CTE from 202 published cases. The clinical features
include impairments in mood (for example, depression and hopelessness), behavior (for
example, explosivity and violence), cognition (for example, impaired memory,
executive functioning, attention, and dementia), and, less commonly, motor
functioning (for example, parkinsonism, ataxia, and dysarthria). We present proposed
research criteria for traumatic encephalopathy syndrome (TES) which consist of four
variants or subtypes (TES behavioral/mood variant, TES cognitive variant, TES mixed
variant, and TES dementia) as well as classifications of ‘probable CTE’
and ‘possible CTE’. These proposed criteria are expected to be modified
and updated as new research findings become available. They are not meant to be used
for a clinical diagnosis. Rather, they should be viewed as research criteria that can
be employed in studies of the underlying causes, risk factors, differential
diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of CTE and related disorders.
Many age-related health problems have been associated with dementia, leading to the hypothesis that late-life dementia may be determined less by specific risk factors, and more by the operation of multiple health deficits in the aggregate. Our study addressed (a) how the predictive value of dementia risk varies by the number of deficits considered and (b) how traditional (for example. vascular risks) and nontraditional risk factors (for example, foot problems, nasal congestion) compare in their predictive effects.
Older adults in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging who were cognitively healthy at baseline were analyzed (men, 2,902; women, 4,337). Over a 10-year period, 44.8% of men and 33.4% of women died; 7.4% of men and 9.1% of women without baseline cognitive impairment developed dementia. Self-rated health problems, including, but not restricted to, dementia risk factors, were coded as deficit present/absent. Different numbers of randomly selected variables were used to calculate various iterations of the index (that is, the proportion of deficits present in an individual. Risks for 10-year mortality and dementia outcomes were evaluated separately for men and women by using logistic regression, adjusted for age. The prediction accuracy was evaluated by using C-statistics.
Age-adjusted odds ratios per additional deficit were 1.22 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.18 to 1.26) in men and 1.14 (1.11 to 1.16) in women in relation to death, and 1.18 (1.12 to 1.25) in men and 1.08 (1.04 to 1.11) in women in relation to dementia. The predictive value increased with the number (n) of deficits considered, regardless of whether they were known dementia risks, and stabilized at n > 25. The all-factor index best predicted dementia (C-statistics, 0.67 ± 0.03).
The variety of items associated with dementias suggests that some part of the risk might relate more to aberrant repair processes, than to specifically toxic results. The epidemiology of late-life illness might best consider overall health status.
The aim of this review was to investigate whether there is a faster cognitive decline in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) than in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) over time.
PsycINFO and Medline were searched from 1946 to February 2013. A quality rating from 1 to 15 (best) was applied to the included studies. A quantitative meta-analysis was done on studies with mini mental state examination (MMSE) as the outcome measure.
A total of 18 studies were included. Of these, six (36%) reported significant differences in the rate of cognitive decline. Three studies reported a faster cognitive decline on MMSE in patients with mixed DLB and AD compared to pure forms, whereas two studies reported a faster decline on delayed recall and recognition in AD and one in DLB on verbal fluency. Mean quality scores for studies that did or did not differ were not significantly different. Six studies reported MMSE scores and were included in the meta-analysis, which showed no significant difference in annual decline on MMSE between DLB (mean 3.4) and AD (mean 3.3).
Our findings do not support the hypothesis of a faster rate of cognitive decline in DLB compared to AD. Future studies should apply recent diagnostic criteria, as well as extensive diagnostic evaluation and ideally autopsy diagnosis. Studies with large enough samples, detailed cognitive tests, at least two years follow up and multivariate statistical analysis are also needed.
Adults with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology in an age-dependent manner. This unique feature provides an opportunity to test interventions targeted for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology and dementia in Down syndrome.
In considering clinical trial designs, however, there are several challenges that we believe will be critical to examine further. These include: accuracy in dementia, mild cognitive impairment and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses in Down syndrome; clinical trial outcome measures appropriate for individuals with Down syndrome; in vivo imaging outcome measures (and practical considerations); and contributions of medical co-morbidities to disease progression. Also, when studies are designed, the molecular target may appear to be obvious (for example, targeting beta-amyloid pathology), but chromosome 21 has over 200 additional genes that could influence both positive and negative clinical trial outcomes.
Observational longitudinal studies of aging in Down syndrome will be critically important as there is a need to establish sensitive clinical outcome measures and understand the consequences of gene overexpression in relation to specific interventions.
Down Syndrome (DS) is caused by trisomy of chromosome 21, which includes the gene for the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and leads to overproduction of beta-amyloid. Clinical-pathological studies indicate that individuals with DS begin demonstrating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology during adolescence and that 100% exhibit such changes by age 40. Individuals with DS therefore represent a highly enriched population for AD. Additionally, owing to their baseline intellectual disability, people with DS represent a more vulnerable group of individuals as compared with other populations. Given the recent developments in AD biomarkers, combined with the prospect of achieving greater efficacy with earlier therapeutic intervention, it is logical to include adults with DS in prevention trials for AD.
The US Food and Drug Administration has released draft guidance on drug development for early-stage AD, based on the understanding that AD is a progressive disease with symptoms developing decades after the disease process has begun. New biomarkers now permit detection of AD pathology in asymptomatic individuals such that there now exists an opportunity to conduct clinical trials of potentially disease-modifying drugs in the earliest stages of the disease and perhaps have the greatest chance of demonstrating efficacy. As such, clinical trials are being actively planned or conducted in individuals with causative mutations in the APP, presenilin-1 (PSEN1), and presenilin-2 (PSEN2) genes.
Individuals with DS comprise perhaps the largest group of people with genetically determined AD, with a worldwide population of about 6 million people. Only by inclusion can we provide access to rational therapies that offer the greatest chance of benefiting this highly at-risk population.
Policy makers have a growing interest in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, which is seen as the main health and social care challenge of the 21st century. The best way to manage dementia at a country level is by developing national plans, comparable to nationwide management of HIV/AIDS or diabetes. This has been done in a limited number of countries, like Australia, South Korea, France, UK and USA. There are some commonalities in the current plans and we have put those together as a learning experience. The value of these plans can increase when they are monitored and evaluated.
The association of military blast exposure and brain injury was first appreciated in World War I as commotio cerebri, and later as shell shock. Similar injuries sustained in modern military conflicts are now classified as mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recent research has yielded new insights into the mechanisms by which blast exposure leads to acute brain injury and chronic sequelae, including postconcussive syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-traumatic headache, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a tau protein neurodegenerative disease. Impediments to delivery of effective medical care for individuals affected by blast-related TBI include: poor insight into the heterogeneity of neurological insults induced by blast exposure; limited understanding of the mechanisms by which blast exposure injures the brain and triggers sequelae; failure to appreciate interactive injuries that affect frontal lobe function, pituitary regulation, and neurovegetative homeostasis; unknown influence of genetic risk factors, prior trauma, and comorbidities; absence of validated diagnostic criteria and clinical nosology that differentiate clinical endophenotypes; and lack of empirical evidence to guide medical management and therapeutic intervention. While clinicopathological analysis can provide evidence of correlative association, experimental use of animal models remains the primary tool for establishing causal mechanisms of disease. However, the TBI field is confronted by a welter of animal models with varying clinical relevance, thereby impeding scientific coherence and hindering translational progress. Animal models of blast TBI will be far more translationally useful if experimental emphasis focuses on accurate reproduction of clinically relevant endpoints (output) rather than scaled replication of idealized blast shockwaves (input). The utility of an animal model is dependent on the degree to which the model recapitulates pathophysiological mechanisms, neuropathological features, and neurological sequelae observed in the corresponding human disorder. Understanding the purpose of an animal model and the criteria by which experimental results derived from the model are validated are critical components for useful animal modeling. Animal models that reliably demonstrate clinically relevant endpoints will expedite development of new treatments, diagnostics, preventive measures, and rehabilitative strategies for individuals affected by blast TBI and its aftermath.
The lack of progress over the last decade in developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has called into question the quality of the cognitive assessments used while also shifting the emphasis from treatment to prophylaxis by studying the disorder at earlier stages, even prior to the development of cognitive symptoms. This has led various groups to seek cognitive tests which are more sensitive than those currently used and which can be meaningfully administered to individuals with mild or even no cognitive impairment. Although computerized tests have long been used in this field, they have made little inroads compared with non-automated tests. This review attempts to put in perspective the relative utilities of automated and non-automated tests of cognitive function in therapeutic trials of pathological aging and the dementias. Also by a review of the automation of cognitive tests over the last 150 years, it is hoped that the notion that such procedures are novel compared with pencil-and-paper testing will be dispelled. Furthermore, data will be presented to illustrate that older individuals and patients with dementia are neither stressed nor disadvantaged when tested with appropriately developed computerized methods. An important aspect of automated testing is that it can assess all aspects of task performance, including the speed of cognitive processes, and data are presented on the advantages this can confer in clinical trials. The ultimate objectives of the review are to encourage decision making in the field to move away from the automated/non-automated dichotomy and to develop criteria pertinent to each trial against which all available procedures are evaluated. If we are to make serious progress in this area, we must use the best tools available, and the evidence suggests that automated testing has earned the right to be judged against the same criteria as non-automated tests.
Since the launch in 2003 of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) in the USA, ever growing, similarly oriented consortia have been organized and assembled around the world. The various accomplishments of ADNI have contributed substantially to a better understanding of the underlying physiopathology of aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These accomplishments are basically predicated in the trinity of multimodality, standardization and sharing. This multimodality approach can now better identify those subjects with AD-specific traits that are more likely to present cognitive decline in the near future and that might represent the best candidates for smaller but more efficient therapeutic trials – trials that, through gained and shared knowledge, can be more focused on a specific target or a specific stage of the disease process. In summary, data generated from ADNI have helped elucidate some of the pathophysiological mechanisms underpinning aging and AD pathology, while contributing to the international effort in setting the groundwork for biomarker discovery and establishing standards for early diagnosis of AD.
The biological basis of cognitive impairment in parkinsonian diseases is believed to be multifactorial. We investigated the contribution of dopamine deficiency to cognition in Parkinson disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) with dopamine transporter (DAT) imaging.
We acquired 11C altropane PET, magnetic resonance imaging and cognitive testing in 19 nondemented subjects with PD, 10 DLB and 17 healthy control subjects (HCS). We analyzed DAT concentration in putamen, caudate, anterior cingulate (AC), orbitofrontal and prefrontal regions, using the Standardized Uptake Volume Ratio with partial volume correction, and we related DAT concentration and global cortical thickness to neuropsychological performance.
DAT concentration in putamen and in caudate were similar in PD and DLB groups and significantly lower than in HCS. Reduced caudate DAT concentration was associated with worse Clinical Dementia Rating Scale–sum of boxes (CDR-SB) scores and visuospatial skills in DLB but not in PD or HCS groups. Adjusting for putamen DAT concentration, as a measure of severity of motor disease, caudate DAT concentration was lower in DLB than in PD. Higher AC DAT concentration was associated with lower putamen DAT concentration in DLB and with higher putamen DAT concentration in PD. Higher AC DAT concentration in DLB correlated with greater impairment in semantic memory and language.
Caudate and AC dopamine dysfunction contribute in opposing directions to cognitive impairment in DLB.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13195-014-0052-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.