The microtubule-binding protein, tau, is the major component of neurofibrillary inclusions characteristic of Alzheimer's disease and related neurodegenerative tauopathies. When tau fibrillizes, it undergoes abnormal post-translational modifications resulting in decreased solubility and altered microtubule-stabilizing properties. Recently, we reported that the abnormal acetylation of tau at lysine residue 280 is a novel, pathological post-translational modification. Here, we performed detailed immunohistochemistry to further examine acetylated-tau expression in Alzheimer's disease and other major tauopathies. Immunohistochemistry using a polyclonal antibody specific for acetylated-tau at lysine 280 was conducted on 30 post-mortem central nervous system regions from patients with Alzheimer's disease (10 patients), corticobasal degeneration (5 patients), and progressive supranuclear palsy (5 patients). Acetylated-tau pathology was compared with the sequential emergence of other tau modifications in the Alzheimer's disease hippocampus using monoclonal antibodies to multiple well-characterized tau epitopes. All cases studied showed significant acetylated-tau pathology in a distribution pattern similar to hyperphosphorylated-tau. Acetylated-tau pathology was largely in intracellular, thioflavin-S-positive tau inclusions in Alzheimer's disease, and also thioflavin-S-negative pathology in corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy. Acetylated-tau was present throughout all stages of Alzheimer's disease pathology, but was more prominently associated with pathological tau epitopes in moderate to severe-stage cases. These temporal and morphological immunohistochemical features suggest acetylation of tau at this epitope is preceded by early modifications, including phosphorylation, and followed by later truncation events and cell death in Alzheimer's disease. Acetylation of tau at lysine 280 is a pathological modification that may contribute to tau-mediated neurodegeneration by both augmenting losses of normal tau properties (reduced solubility and microtubule assembly) as well as toxic gains of function (increased tau fibrillization). Thus, inhibiting tau acetylation could be a disease-modifying target for drug discovery target in tauopathies.
Alzheimer's disease; tauopathy; acetylation; post-translational modification; tau
The frequency and clinical and pathological characteristics associated with the Gly206Ala presenilin 1 (PSEN1) mutation in Puerto Rican and non-Puerto Rican Hispanics were evaluated at the University of Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. DNAs from all cohort subjects were genotyped for the Gly206Ala PSEN1 mutation. Carriers and non-carriers with neurodegenerative disease dementias were compared for demographic, clinical, psychometric, and biomarker variables. Nineteen (12.6%) of 151 unrelated subjects with dementia were discovered to carry the PSEN1 Gly 206Ala mutation. Microsatellite marker genotyping determined a common ancestral haplotype for all carriers. Carriers were all of Puerto Rican heritage with significantly younger age of onset, but otherwise were clinically and neuropsychologically comparable to those of non-carriers with AD. Three subjects had extensive topographic and biochemical biomarker assessments that were also typical of non-carriers with AD. Neuropathological examination in one subject revealed severe, widespread plaque and tangle pathology without other meaningful disease lesions. The PSEN1 Gly206Ala mutation is notably frequent in unrelated Puerto Rican immigrants with dementia in Philadelphia. Considered together with the increased prevalence and mortality of AD reported in Puerto Rico, these high rates may reflect hereditary risk concentrated in the island which warrants further study.
Age of onset; dementia; haplotype; presenilin
Different inflammatory and metabolic pathways have been associated with Alzheimeŕs disease (AD). However, only recently multi-analyte panels to study a large number of molecules in well characterized cohorts have been made available. These panels could help identify molecules that point to the affected pathways. We studied the relationship between a panel of plasma biomarkers (Human DiscoveryMAP®) and presence of AD-like brain atrophy patterns defined by a previously published index (SPARE-AD) at baseline in subjects of the ADNI cohort. 818 subjects had MRI-derived SPARE-AD scores, of these subjects 69% had plasma biomarkers and 51% had CSF tau and Aβ measurements. Significant analyte-SPARE-AD and analytes correlations were studied in adjusted models. Plasma cortisol and chromogranin A showed a significant association that did not remain significant in the CSF signature adjusted model. Plasma macrophage inhibitory protein-1α and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 showed a significant association with brain atrophy in the adjusted model. Cortisol levels showed an inverse association with tests measuring processing speed. Our results indicate that stress and insulin responses and cytokines associated with recruitment of inflammatory cells in MCI-AD are associated with its characteristic AD-like brain atrophy pattern and correlate with clinical changes or CSF biomarkers.
Motor symptoms such as mild parkinsonian signs are common in older persons, but little is known about their underlying neuropathology. We tested the hypothesis that nigral pathology is related to parkinsonism in older persons without Parkinson’s disease (PD).
More than 2,500 persons participating in the Religious Orders Study or the Memory and Aging Project agreed to annual assessment of parkinsonism with a modified version of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale(mUPDRS) and brain donation. Brains from744 deceased participants without PD were assessed for nigral neuronal loss and α-synuclein immunopositive Lewy bodies.
Mean age at death was 88.5. Mean global parkinsonism was 18.6(SD, 11.90). About of cases had mild or more severe nigral neuronal loss and about 17% had Lewy bodies. In separate regression models which adjusted for age, sex and education, nigral neuronal loss and Lewy bodies were both related to global parkinsonism[(Neuronal loss, Estimate, 0.231, S.E, 0.068, p<0.001); (Lewy bodies, Estimate, 0.291, S.E, 0.133, p=0.029)]. Employing a similar regression model which included both measures, neuronal loss remained associated with global parkinsonism(Neuronal loss, Estimate, 0.206, S.E, 0.075,p=0.006). By contrast, the association between Lewy bodies and global parkinsonism was attenuated by more than 60%and was no longer significant(Lewy bodies, Estimate, 0.112, S.E, 0.148, p=0.447), suggesting that neuronal loss may mediate the association of Lewy bodies with global parkinsonism.
Nigral pathology is common in persons without PD and may contribute to loss of motor function in old age.
The utility flourodeoxyglucose PET (FDG-PET) imaging in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) diagnosis is well established. Recently, measurement of cerebral blood flow using arterial spin labeling MRI (ASL-MRI) has shown diagnostic potential in AD, though it has never been directly compared to FDG-PET.
We employed a novel imaging protocol to obtain FDG-PET and ASL-MRI images concurrently in 17 AD patients and 19 age-matched controls. Paired FDG-PET and ASL-MRI images from 19 controls and 15 AD patients were included for qualitative analysis, while paired images 18 controls and 13 AD patients were suitable for quantitative analyses.
The combined imaging protocol was well tolerated. Both modalities revealed very similar regional abnormalities in AD, as well as comparable sensitivity and specificity for the detection of AD following visual review by two expert readers. Interobserver agreement was better for FDG-PET (kappa 0.75, SE 0.12) than ASL-MRI (kappa 0.51, SE 0.15), intermodality agreement was moderate to strong (kappa 0.45-0.61), and readers were more confident of FDG-PET reads. Simple quantitative analysis of global cerebral FDG uptake (FDG-PET) or whole brain cerebral blood flow (ASL-MRI) showed excellent diagnostic accuracy for both modalities, with area under ROC curves of 0.90 for FDG-PET (95% CI 0.79-0.99) and 0.91 for ASL-MRI (95% CI 0.80-1.00).
Our results demonstrate that FDG-PET and ASL-MRI identify similar regional abnormalities and have comparable diagnostic accuracy in a small population of AD patients, and support the further study of ASL-MRI in dementia diagnosis.
ASL; FDG; PET; MRI; Alzheimer’s disease; spin label; fluorodeoxyglucose; dementia
Olfactory impairments are a common feature of schizophrenia. Impairments in odor detection and odor identification are present early in the course of illness and among those at risk for the disorder. These behavioral impairments have been linked to both physiological and anatomical abnormalities in the neural substrates subserving olfaction, including relatively peripheral elements of the olfactory system. The location of olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal epithelium allows noninvasive access to these neurons in living subjects. This offers a unique opportunity to directly assess neuronal integrity in vivo in patients. The peripheral olfactory receptor neuron response to odor stimulation was assessed in 21 schizophrenia patients and 18 healthy comparison subjects. The electroolfactogram, representing the electrical depolarization of the olfactory receptor neurons, was recording following stimulation with different doses and durations of hydrogen sulfide, a pure olfactory nerve stimulant. Schizophrenia patients had abnormally large depolarization responses following odor stimulation, independent of clinical symptomatology, antipsychotic medication dosage or smoking history. Although the precise pathophysiological mechanism is unknown, this olfactory receptor neuron abnormality is consistent with several lines of evidence suggesting altered proliferation or maturation of olfactory receptor neuron cell lineages in schizophrenia. It is also consistent with emerging evidence of disruptions of cyclic AMP-mediated intracellular signaling mechanisms, and may be a marker of these disruptions. It unambiguously demonstrates that neurophysiological disturbances in schizophrenia are not limited to cortical and subcortical structures, but rather include even the most peripheral sensory neurons.
schizophrenia; olfaction; olfactory receptor neuron; olfactory epithelium; electroolfactogram; signal transduction
The emergence of longevity in the modern world has brought a sense of urgency to understanding age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, there is a lack of consensus regarding the correlation between the pathological substrates of neurodegeneration and dementia status, particularly in the oldest-old. To better understand the pathological correlates of dementia in the oldest-old, we characterized the topographical spread and severity of amyloid-β, tau, TDP-43 and α-synuclein pathologies in the 90+ Study, a prospective longitudinal population-based study of ageing and dementia. Neuropathological analysis with immunohistochemically labelled sections was carried out blind to clinical diagnosis on the first 108 participants of the 90+ Study who came to autopsy including participants with dementia (n = 66) and without dementia (n = 42). We used quantitative and/or semi-quantitative measures to assess the burden of amyloid-β, tau, TDP-43 and α-synuclein pathologies as well as hippocampal sclerosis. Amyloid-β and tau were the predominant pathologies in the 90+ Study cohort and both amyloid-β area and tau area occupied measures were strongly associated with the presence of dementia, as was Braak staging but semi-quantitative plaque scores were not. Notably, TDP-43 pathology also correlated with dementia, while α-synuclein distribution did not. In addition, hippocampal sclerosis was specific to participants with dementia and correlated with the presence of limbic TDP-43. In contrast to previous reports, we found that tau and amyloid-β continue to be robust pathological correlates of dementia, even in the oldest-old. While individuals with no dementia had limited hippocampal tau and neocortical amyloid-β pathology, dementia associated with an expansion in pathology, including increased neocortical tau and hippocampal amyloid-β plaques, more abundant neocortical amyloid-β deposition and hippocampal sclerosis with its attendant TDP-43 pathology.
Alzheimer's; tau; amyloid; dementia; oldest-old
To test the hypothesis that harm avoidance, a trait associated with behavioral inhibition, is associated with risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A total of 791 adults aged 55 years and older without dementia completed a standard self report measure of harm avoidance. They then underwent annual evaluations that included detailed cognitive testing and clinical classification of mild cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In a uniform neuropathologic examination of those who died, counts of neuritic plaques diffuse plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles were standardized and combined to yield a pathologic measure of disease. The relation of harm avoidance to incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and related outcomes was estimated in analyses adjusted for age, sex, and education.
During a mean of 3.5 years of annual observation, 98 people (12.4%) developed incident Alzheimer’s disease. High level of harm avoidance (90th percentile) was associated with a more than twofold increase in risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to a low score (10th percentile). Higher harm avoidance was also associated with increased incidence of mild cognitive impairment and more rapid decline in episodic memory, working memory, and perceptual speed (but not semantic memory or visuospatial ability). In 116 participants who died and underwent brain autopsy, harm avoidance was not related to a composite measure of plaques and tangles.
High level of the harm avoidance trait, indicating a tendency toward behavioral inhibition, is related to risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment.
Harm avoidance; Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; cognitive decline; longitudinal studies; brain autopsy
Animal models provide compelling evidence that chronic stress is associated with biochemical and morphological changes in the brain, many of which are mediated by corticosterone, a principal glucocorticoid synthesized in the rodent adrenal cortex and secreted in response to stress. To better characterize the effects of chronic corticosterone at the synaptic and sub-synaptic level, we implanted 3-month-old male C57B/6 mice with 2 × 5 mg corticosterone pellets (CORT group, n=14), 21 day release formulation (20 mg/kg/day dose) or placebo pellets (Placebo group, n=14), 21 day release formulation. After 20 days, brains were removed. One hemisphere was frozen for biochemical analysis by synaptosomal fractionation with Western blotting, and the other hemisphere was fixed for immunohistochemistry. Localization and expression levels for PSD-95, NR1, and synaptopodin proteins were assessed. Biochemical analysis revealed lower protein levels of PSD-95 (32% decrease, p<0.001), NR1 (47%, p=0.01), and synaptopodin (65%, p<0.001) in the postsynaptic density subsynaptic fraction of the CORT group. Optical densitometry in immunohistochemically labeled sections also found lower levels of PSD-95 in synaptic fields of the dentate gyrus (PSD-95, 33% decrease, p<0.001; NR1, 31%, p<0.001; synaptopodin, 40%, p<0.001) and the CA3 stratum lucidum (36%, p<0.001, 40%, p<0.001, and 35%, p<0.001) of the CORT group. While mechanistic relationships for these changes are not yet known, we speculate that synaptopodin, which is involved in regulation of spine calcium kinetics and post-translational modification and transport of locally synthesized proteins, may play an important role in the changes of PSD-95 and NR1 protein levels and other synaptic alterations.
stress; glucocorticoid; hippocampus; synaptosome; dendritic spine; postsynaptic density
As part of a clinical-pathologic project, older people completed a standard odor identification test at study entry. During a mean of 3.5 years of observation, 201 people died and underwent brain autopsy and neuropathologic examination (6 with a history of Parkinson's disease were excluded). Lewy bodies were identified with antibodies to alpha-synuclein and classified as nigral, limbic, or neocortical based on their distribution in 6 brain regions. Plaques and tangles in 5 regions were summarized with a previously established composite measure, and neuron loss in the substantia nigra was rated on 6-point scale. Odor identification scores ranged from 0 to 12 correct (mean = 8.0, standard deviation = 2.6). On neuropathologic examination, 26 persons had Lewy bodies (13 neocortical, 9 limbic, and 4 nigral). In an analysis adjusted for age, sex, education, and time from olfactory testing to death, limbic (estimate = −2.47, standard error [SE] = 0.73, P < 0.001) and neocortical (estimate = −4.36, SE = 0.63, P < 0.001) Lewy body subgroups were associated with impaired olfaction. Results were comparable in analyses that controlled for dementia or parkinsonism during the study or postmortem measures of plaques and tangles or nigral cell loss. A final set of analyses suggested that impaired olfactory performance may aid detection of underlying Lewy body disease. The findings indicate that Lewy body disease impairs late life olfactory function even in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.
Alzheimer's disease; Lewy body disease; odor identification; substantia nigra
Most people with Parkinson's disease (PD) eventually develop cognitive impairment (CI). However, neither the timing of onset nor the severity of cognitive symptoms can be accurately predicted. We sought plasma-based biomarkers for CI in PD.
A discovery cohort of 70 PD patients was recruited. Cognitive status was evaluated with the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale-2 (DRS) at baseline and on annual follow-up visits, and baseline plasma levels of 102 proteins were determined with a bead-based immunoassay. Using linear regression, we identified biomarkers of CI in PD, i.e. proteins whose levels correlated with cognitive performance at baseline and/or cognitive decline at follow-up. We then replicated the association between cognitive performance and levels of the top biomarker, using a different technical platform, with a separate cohort of 113 PD patients.
Eleven proteins exhibited plasma levels correlating with baseline cognitive performance in the discovery cohort. The best candidate was epidermal growth factor (EGF, p<0.001); many of the other 10 analytes co-varied with EGF across samples. Low levels of EGF not only correlated with poor cognitive test scores at baseline, but also predicted an eightfold greater risk of cognitive decline to dementia-range DRS scores at follow-up for those with intact baseline cognition. A weaker, but still significant, relationship between plasma EGF levels and cognitive performance was found in an independent replication cohort of 113 PD patients.
Our data suggest that plasma EGF may be a biomarker for progression to CI in PD.
Epidermal growth factor; EGF; Parkinson's Disease; Parkinson's Disease with Dementia; Biomarker; Plasma
Defective brain insulin signaling has been suggested to contribute to the cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although a connection between AD and diabetes has been suggested, a major unknown is the mechanism(s) by which insulin resistance in the brain arises in individuals with AD. Here, we show that serine phosphorylation of IRS-1 (IRS-1pSer) is common to both diseases. Brain tissue from humans with AD had elevated levels of IRS-1pSer and activated JNK, analogous to what occurs in peripheral tissue in patients with diabetes. We found that amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) oligomers, synaptotoxins that accumulate in the brains of AD patients, activated the JNK/TNF-α pathway, induced IRS-1 phosphorylation at multiple serine residues, and inhibited physiological IRS-1pTyr in mature cultured hippocampal neurons. Impaired IRS-1 signaling was also present in the hippocampi of Tg mice with a brain condition that models AD. Importantly, intracerebroventricular injection of Aβ oligomers triggered hippocampal IRS-1pSer and JNK activation in cynomolgus monkeys. The oligomer-induced neuronal pathologies observed in vitro, including impaired axonal transport, were prevented by exposure to exendin-4 (exenatide), an anti-diabetes agent. In Tg mice, exendin-4 decreased levels of hippocampal IRS-1pSer and activated JNK and improved behavioral measures of cognition. By establishing molecular links between the dysregulated insulin signaling in AD and diabetes, our results open avenues for the investigation of new therapeutics in AD.
Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) is a potentially reversible cause of dementia and gait disturbance that is typically treated by operative placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. The outcome from shunting is variable, and some evidence suggests that the presence of comorbid Alzheimer's disease (AD) may impact shunt outcome. Evidence also suggests that AD biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may predict the presence of AD. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between the phosphorylated tau/amyloid beta 1-42 (ptau/Aβ1-42) ratio in ventricular CSF and shunt outcome in patients with iNPH.
We conducted a prospective trial with a cohort of 39 patients with suspected iNPH. Patients were clinically and psychometrically assessed prior to and approximately 4 months after ventriculoperitoneal shunting. Lumbar and ventricular CSF obtained intraoperatively, and tissue from intraoperative cortical biopsies were analyzed for AD biomarkers. Outcome measures included performance on clinical symptom scales, supplementary gait measures, and standard psychometric tests. We investigated relationships between the ptau/Aβ1-42 ratio in ventricular CSF and cortical AD pathology, initial clinical features, shunt outcome, and lumbar CSF ptau/Aβ1-42 ratios in the patients in our cohort.
We found that high ptau/Aβ1-42 ratios in ventricular CSF correlated with the presence of cortical AD pathology. At baseline, iNPH patients with ratio values most suggestive of AD presented with better gait performance but poorer cognitive performance. Patients with high ptau/Aβ1-42 ratios also showed a less robust response to shunting on both gait and cognitive measures. Finally, in a subset of 18 patients who also underwent lumbar puncture, ventricular CSF ratios were significantly correlated with lumbar CSF ratios.
Levels of AD biomarkers in CSF correlate with the presence of cortical AD pathology and predict aspects of clinical presentation in iNPH. Moreover, preliminary evidence suggests that CSF biomarkers of AD may prove useful for stratifying shunt prognosis in patients being evaluated and treated for this condition.
Alzheimer's disease; Normal pressure hydrocephalus; Ventriculoperitoneal shunting; Tau; Amyloid beta 1-42; Cerebrospinal fluid
To evaluate the cause of diagnostic errors in the visual interpretation of positron emission tomography scans with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Twelve trained raters unaware of clinical and autopsy information independently reviewed FDG-PET scans and provided their diagnostic impression and confidence of either FTLD or AD. Six of these raters also recorded whether metabolism appeared normal or abnormal in 5 predefined brain regions in each hemisphere – frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, anterior temporal cortex, temporoparietal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex. Results were compared to neuropathological diagnoses.
Academic medical centers
45 patients with pathologically confirmed FTLD (n=14) or AD (n=31)
Raters had a high degree of diagnostic accuracy in the interpretation of FDG-PET scans; however, raters consistently found some scans more difficult to interpret than others. Unanimity of diagnosis among the raters was more frequent in patients with AD (27/31, 87%) than in patients with FTLD (7/14, 50%) (p = 0.02). Disagreements in interpretation of scans in patients with FTLD largely occurred when there was temporoparietal hypometabolism, which was present in 7 of the 14 FTLD scans and 6 of the 7 lacking unanimity. Hypometabolism of anterior cingulate and anterior temporal regions had higher specificities and positive likelihood ratios for FTLD than temporoparietal hypometabolism had for AD.
Temporoparietal hypometabolism in FTLD is common and may cause inaccurate interpretation of FDG-PET scans. An interpretation paradigm that focuses on the absence of hypometabolism in regions typically affected in AD before considering FTLD is likely to misclassify a significant portion of FTLD scans. Anterior cingulate and/or anterior temporal hypometabolism indicates a high likelihood of FTLD, even when temporoparietal hypometabolism is present. Ultimately, the accurate interpretation of FDG-PET scans in patients with dementia cannot rest on the presence or absence of a single region of hypometabolism, but must take into account the relative hypometabolism of all brain regions.
It is increasingly recognized that the correlation between neuropathological lesions and cognition is modest and accounts for about a quarter of the variance of cognition among older adults. Some individuals maintain normal cognitive functioning amidst significant brain pathology, while others suffer varying degrees of cognitive and neurological deterioration that render them dependent and frail. We present data from the Religious Orders Study and the Memory and Aging Project pertaining to pathology and cognition, and propose a paradigm shift in consideration of the neurobiology of healthy aging and dementia. Factors that modify or mediate the association between neuropathology and cognition are also discussed. It is hypothesized that the concept of resilient aging can serve as a useful entity in understanding mechanisms that underlie healthy aging amidst disease-related pathology.
Genome-wide association studies implicate variations in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 as being associated with nicotine addiction (NA). Multiple common haplotypes (“risk”, “mixed” and “protective”) exist in Europeans; however, high linkage disequilibrium between variations in CHRNA5 and CHRNA3 makes assigning causative allele(s) for NA difficult through genotyping experiments alone. We investigated whether CHRNA5 or CHRNA3 promoter haplotypes, associated previously with NA, might influence allelic expression levels. For in vitro analyses, promoter haplotypes were sub-cloned into a luciferase reporter vector. When assessed in BE(2)-C cells, luciferase expression was equivalent among CHRNA3 haplotypes, but the combination of deletion at rs3841324 and variation at rs503464 decreased CHRNA5 promoter-derived luciferase activity, possibly due to loss of an SP-1 and other site(s). Variation within the CHRNA5 5’UTR at rs55853698 and rs55781567 also altered luciferase expression in BE(2)-C cells. Allelic expression imbalance (AEI) from the “risk” or “protective” haplotypes was assessed in post-mortem brain tissue from individuals heterozygous at coding polymorphisms in CHRNA3 (rs1051730) or CHRNA5 (rs16969968). In most cases, equivalent allelic expression was observed; however, one individual showed CHRNA5 AEI that favored the “protective” allele and that was concordant with heterozygosity at polymorphisms ∼13.5 kb upstream of the CHRNA5 transcription start site. Putative enhancer activity from these distal promoter elements was assessed using heterologous promoter constructs. We observed no differences in promoter activity from the two distal promoter haplotypes examined, but found that the distal promoter region strongly repressed transcription. We conclude that CHRNA5 promoter variants may affect relative risk for NA in some heterozygous individuals.
It is becoming increasingly important to study common and distinct etiologies, clinical and pathological features, and mechanisms related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). These comparative studies rely on powerful database tools to quickly generate data sets which match diverse and complementary criteria set by the studies.
In this paper, we present a novel Integrated NeuroDegenerative Disease (INDD) database developed at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) through a consortium of Penn investigators. Since these investigators work on AD, PD, ALS and FTLD, this allowed us to achieve the goal of developing an INDD database for these major neurodegenerative disorders. We used Microsoft SQL Server as the platform with built-in “backwards” functionality to provide Access as a front-end client to interface with the database. We used PHP hypertext Preprocessor to create the “front end” web interface and then integrated individual neurodegenerative disease databases using a master lookup table. We also present methods of data entry, database security, database backups, and database audit trails for this INDD database.
We compare the results of a biomarker study using the INDD database to those using an alternative approach by querying individual database separately.
We have demonstrated that the Penn INDD database has the ability to query multiple database tables from a single console with high accuracy and reliability. The INDD database provides a powerful tool for generating data sets in comparative studies across several neurodegenerative diseases.
Database; Neurodegenerative Disease; Microsoft SQL; Relational Neurodegenerative Disease Database
The authors tested the hypothesis that difficulty in identifying odors, a common finding in Parkinson's disease, is associated with more rapid progression of parkinsonian signs in 743 community-dwelling older people without dementia or Parkinson's disease at study onset. Odor identification ability was assessed at baseline with the 12-item Brief Smell Identification Test (mean = 9.0 correct, SD = 2.1), and parkinsonism was assessed annually for up to 5 years with a modified version of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale. In an analysis adjusted for age, sex, and education, lower odor identification score was related to higher level of global parkinsonism at baseline (p < .001) and more rapid progression of global parkinsonism on follow-up (p = .002). This result mainly reflected an association of odor identification with worsening parkinsonian gait. The results suggest that impaired odor identification is associated with more rapid progression of parkinsonism in old age, particularly parkinsonian gait disturbance.
Motor impairment in old age is a growing public-health concern, and several different constructs have been used to identify motor impairments in older people. We tested the hypothesis that combinations of motor constructs more strongly predict adverse health outcomes in older people.
In total, 949 people without dementia, history of stroke or Parkinson's disease, who were participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project (a longitudinal community-based cohort study), underwent assessment at study entry. From this, three constructs were derived: 1) physical frailty based on grip strength, timed walk, body mass index and fatigue; 2) Parkinsonian Signs Score based on the modified motor section of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale; and 3) a motor construct, based on nine strength measures and nine motor performances. Disability and cognitive status were assessed annually. A series of Cox proportional-hazards models, controlling for age, sex and education, were used to examine the association of each of these three constructs alone and in various combinations with death, disability and Alzheimer's disease (AD).
All three constructs were related (mean r = 0.50, all P < 0.001), and when considered individually in separate proportional-hazards models, were associated with risk of death, incident disability and AD. However, when considered together, combinations of these constructs more strongly predicted adverse health outcomes.
Physical frailty, parkinsonian signs score and global motor score are related constructs that capture different aspects of motor function. Assessments using several motor constructs may more accurately identify people at the highest risk of adverse health consequences in old age.
Olfactory dysfunction is common in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases. PHFtau, α-synuclein and amyloid-β lesions occur early and severely in cerebral regions of the olfactory system and they have also been observed in olfactory epithelium (OE). However, their frequency, abundance, disease specificity, and relationships of OE pathology to brain pathology have not been established.
We investigated the pathological expression of amyloid-β, PHFtau, α-synuclein, and TDP-43 in postmortem OE of 79 cases with AD, 63 cases with various other neurodegenerative diseases, and 45 neuropathologically normal cases.
Amyloid-β was present as punctate and small patchy aggregates in 71% of AD cases compared to 22% of normal cases and 14% of cases with other diseases and in greater amounts in AD than either of the other two diagnostic categories. PHFtau was evident in dystrophic neurites in 55% of cases with AD, 34% with normal brains, and 39% with other neurodegenerative diseases, also at higher densities in AD. α-Synuclein was present in dystrophic neurites in seven cases, six of whom also had cerebral Lewy bodies. Pathological TDP-43 inclusions were not observed in the OE in any cases. Amyloid-β and to a lesser degree, PHFtau ratings in OE significantly correlated with cortical Aβ and PHFtau lesion ratings in the brain.
These data demonstrate that AD pathology in the OE is present in the majority of cases with pathologically verified AD and correlates with brain pathology. Future work may assess the utility of amyloid-β and PHFtau measurement in OE as a biomarker for AD.
The problem of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) exemplifies the challenges of dealing with a broad range of aging related chronic disorders that require long-term, labor-intensive and expensive care. As the “baby-boom” generation ages and brain diseases become more prevalent, the need to confront the pending health care crisis is more urgent than ever before. Indeed, there is now a critical need to expand significantly the national effort to solve the problem of AD with special focus on prevention.
The “Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease 2020” (PAD 2020) initiative aims to create a new paradigm for planning and supporting the organization of worldwide cooperative research networks to develop new technologies for early detection and treatments of aging related memory and motor impairments. PAD 2020 is developing an implementation plan to justify: a) increasing the federal budget for research; b) developing novel national resources to discover new interventions for memory and motor disorders; c) creating innovative and streamlined decision-making processes for selecting and supporting new ideas.
Since 1978, the National Institute on Aging (NIA/NIH) established an extensive national network of AD research facilities at academic institutions including: AD Centers (ADCs), Consortium to Establish a Registry for AD (CERAD), AD Cooperative Study (ADCS), AD Drug Discovery Program, National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC), National Cell Repository for AD (NCRAD), and AD Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). However, despite the success of these program and their critical contributions, they are no longer adequate to meet the challenges presented by AD.
PAD2020 is designed to address these changes by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of these programs. For example, the ADCs (P30s and P50s) can be enhanced by converting some into Comprehensive AD Centers (CADCs) to support not only research, but also by being demonstration projects on care/ treatment, clinical trials, and education as well as by seamlessly integrating multi-site collaborative studies (ADCS, ADNI, Patient Registries, Clinical Data Banks, etc.) into a cohesive structure that further enhances the original mission of the NIA ADCs.
Regional CADCs offer greater efficiency and cost savings while serving as coordinating hubs of existing ADCs thereby offering greater economies of scale and programmatic integration. The CADCs also broaden the scope of ADC activities to include research on interventions, diagnosis, imaging, prevention trials, and other longitudinal studies that require long-term support. Thus, CADCs can address the urgent need to identify subjects at high risk of AD for prevention trials and very early in the course of AD for clinical trials of disease modification. The enhanced CADCs will allow more flexibility among ADCs by supporting collaborative linkages with other institutions, and drawing upon a wider expertise from different locations.
This perspective paper describes the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) CADC Model as an illustrative example of how an existing ADC can be converted into a CADC by better utilization of Penn academic resources to address the wide range of problems concerning AD. The intent of this position paper is to stimulate thinking and foster the development of other or alternative models for a systems approach to the study of dementia and movement disorders.
Ante-mortem diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders based on clinical features alone is associated with variable sensitivity and specificity, and biomarkers can potentially improve the accuracy of clinical diagnosis. In patients suspected of having Alzheimer’s disease (AD), alterations in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers that reflect the neuropathologic changes of AD strongly support the diagnosis, although there is a trade-off between sensitivity and specificity due to similar changes in cognitively healthy subjects. Here we review the current approaches in using CSF AD biomarkers (total tau, p-tau181, and Aβ42) to predict the presence of AD pathology, and our recent work using multi-analyte profiling to derive novel biomarkers for biofluid-based AD diagnosis. We also review our use of the multi-analyte profiling strategy to identify novel biomarkers that can distinguish between subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, and those at risk of developing cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease. Multi-analyte profiling is a powerful tool for biomarker discovery in complex neurodegenerative disorders, and analytes associated with one or more diseases may shed light on relevant biological pathways and potential targets for intervention.
Biomarker; diagnosis; Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; Lewy bodie; tau; tauopathy; TDP-43
An increasing number of studies report associations between variation in DTNBP1, a top candidate gene in schizophrenia, and both the clinical symptoms of the disorder and its cognitive deficits. DTNBP1 encodes dysbindin-1, reduced levels of which have been found in synaptic fields of schizophrenia cases. This study determined whether such synaptic reductions are isoform-specific.
Using Western blotting of tissue fractions, we first determined the synaptic localization of the three major dysbindin-1 isoforms (A, B, and C). All three were concentrated in synaptosomes of multiple brain areas, including auditory association cortices in the posterior half of the superior temporal gyrus (pSTG) and the hippocampal formation (HF). Tests on the subsynaptic tissue fractions revealed that each isoform is predominantly, if not exclusively, associated with synaptic vesicles (dysbindin-1B) or with postsynaptic densities (dysbindin-1A and -1C). Using Western blotting on pSTG (n = 15) and HF (n = 15) synaptosomal fractions from schizophrenia cases and their matched controls, we discovered that synaptic dysbindin-1 is reduced in an isoform-specific manner in schizophrenia without changes in levels of synaptophysin or PSD-95. In pSTG, about 92% of the schizophrenia cases displayed synaptic dysbindin-1A reductions averaging 48% (p = 0.0007) without alterations in other dysbindin-1 isoforms. In the HF, by contrast, schizophrenia cases displayed normal levels of synaptic dysbindin-1A, but 67% showed synaptic reductions in dysbindin-1B averaging 33% (p = 0.0256), while 80% showed synaptic reductions in dysbindin-1C averaging 35% (p = 0.0171).
Given the distinctive subsynaptic localization of dysbindin-1A, -1B, and -1C across brain regions, the observed pSTG reductions in dysbindin-1A are postsynaptic and may promote dendritic spine loss with consequent disruption of auditory information processing, while the noted HF reductions in dysbindin-1B and -1C are both presynaptic and postsynaptic and could promote deficits in spatial working memory.
To measure clinically relevant change in Alzheimer's disease (AD) using a family member completed dementia severity rating scale (DSRS) questionnaire.
Measuring rate of change provides important clinical information. Most neuropsychological scores change nonlinearly, complicating their use as a predictor of change throughout the illness.
DSRS and Mini Mental State (MMS) scores were prospectively collected on 702 patients with AD from first evaluation until they became too impaired to return to clinic.
DSRS score increased an average of 4.48 points per year (95% CI 4.14 - 4.82) throughout the entire range of severity. In contrast, the MMS declined an average of 2.15 points per year (95% CI 1.85-2.46) during the first two years, accelerated to 3.83 points per year (95% CI 3.28-4.38) during the subsequent three years and then slowed to an annual decline of 1.63 points during the last two years (95% CI 0.21-3.05). A younger age of symptom onset was associated with an increased rate of DSRS change (p=0.03).
The DSRS provides a clinical measure of functional impairment in AD that increases about 4.48 points per year from the earliest symptomatic stage until patients become too severely impaired to return to clinic.
Dementia severity rating scale; Alzheimer's disease; Rate of decline
To determine the impact of cortical Alzheimer disease pathology on shunt responsiveness in individuals treated for idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH), 37 patients clinically diagnosed with iNPH participated in a prospective study in which performance on neurologic, psychometric, and gait measures before and 4 months after shunting was correlated with amyloid β plaques, neuritic plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles observed in cortical biopsies obtained during shunt insertion. No complications resulted from biopsy acquisition. Moderate to severe pathology was associated with worse baseline cognitive performance and diminished postoperative improvement on NPH symptom severity scales, gait measures, and cognitive instruments compared to patients lacking pathology.