In light of the meeting of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2011 to discuss the regulation of clinical direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests, we have invited five experts to consider the best means of overseeing the ordering and interpretation of these tests. Should these tests be regulated? If so, who, if anyone, should communicate results to consumers?
Little is known about parental attitudes toward return of individual research results (IRRs) in pediatric genomic research. The aim of this study was to understand the views of the parents who enrolled their children in a genomic repository in which IRRs will be returned.
We conducted focus groups with parents of children with developmental disorders enrolled in the Gene Partnership (GP), a genomic research repository that offers to return IRRs, to learn about their understanding of the GP, motivations for enrolling their children, and expectations regarding the return of IRRs.
Parents hoped to receive IRRs that would help them better understand their children’s condition(s). They understood that this outcome was unlikely, but hoped that their children’s participation in the GP would contribute to scientific knowledge. Most parents wanted to receive all IRRs about their child, even for diseases that were severe and untreatable, citing reasons of personal utility. Parents preferred electronic delivery of the results and wanted to designate their preferences regarding what information they would receive.
It is important for researchers to understand participant expectations in enrolling in a research repository that offers to disclose children’s IRRs in order to effectively communicate the implications to parents during the consenting process.
biorepository research; individual research results; parent perspectives; pediatric biobank; pediatric genetic research; returning research results
To explore specific conditions and types of genetic variants that specialists in genetics recommend should be returned as incidental findings in clinical sequencing.
Sixteen specialists in clinical genetics and/or molecular medicine selected variants in 99 common conditions to return to the ordering physician if discovered incidentally through whole genome sequencing. For most conditions, the specialists independently considered 3 molecular scenarios for both adults and minor children: a known pathogenic mutation, a truncating variant presumed pathogenic (where other truncating variants were known to be pathogenic), or a missense variant predicted in silico to be pathogenic.
On average, for adults and children respectively, each specialist selected 83.5 and 79.0 conditions or genes out of 99 in the known pathogenic mutation categories, 57.0 and 53.5 out of 72 in the truncating variant categories, and 33.4 and 29.7 out of 72 in the missense variant categories. Concordance in favor of disclosure within the adult/known pathogenic mutation category was 100% for 21 conditions or genes and 80% or higher for 64 conditions or genes.
Specialists were highly concordant for the return of findings in 64 conditions or genes if discovered incidentally during whole exome or whole genome sequencing.
whole genome sequencing; incidental findings
Brain donation and neuropathological examination of brain tissues is the only way to obtain definitive diagnostic information on research subjects enrolled in aging studies. We investigated predictors of brain donation in a population-based study of centenarians in Phase III of the Georgia Centenarian Study (GCS).
Sixty-six individuals (mean age = 100.6 years, 91% female, 20% African American) were successfully recruited from the core sample of 244 individuals residing in 44 counties of Northeast Georgia to provide brain donation.
Bivariate (t-tests, chi-square tests) and multivariate analyses (logistic regression) showed no significant differences between donors and non-donors across a wide range of demographic, religious, personality, cognitive and physical functioning characteristics.
We succeeded in recruiting a diverse, population-based sample of centenarians for brain donation. Our findings also suggest that barriers to brain donation reported in other studies may have less impact in these exceptional survivors.
The efficacy of genetic testing for diabetes risk to motivate behavior change for diabetes prevention is currently unknown.
This paper presents key issues in the design and implementation of one of the first randomized trials (the Genetic Counseling/Lifestyle Change for Diabetes Prevention Study) to test whether knowledge of diabetes genetic risk can motivate patients to adopt healthier behaviors.
Because individuals may react differently to receiving ‘higher’ vs ‘lower’ genetic risk results, we designed a 3-arm parallel group study to separately test the hypotheses that: (1) patients receiving ‘higher’ diabetes genetic risk results will increase healthy behaviors compared to untested controls, and (2) patients receiving ‘lower’ diabetes genetic risk results will decrease healthy behaviors compared to untested controls. In this paper we describe several challenges to implementing this study, including: (1) the application of a novel diabetes risk score derived from genetic epidemiology studies to a clinical population, (2) the use of the principle of Mendelian randomization to efficiently exclude ‘average’ diabetes genetic risk patients from the intervention, and (3) the development of a diabetes genetic risk counseling intervention that maintained the ethical need to motivate behavior change in both ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ diabetes genetic risk result recipients.
Diabetes genetic risk scores were developed by aggregating the results of 36 diabetes-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms. Relative risk for type 2 diabetes was calculated using Framingham Offspring Study outcomes, grouped by quartiles into ‘higher’, ‘average (middle two quartiles)’ and ‘lower’ genetic risk. From these relative risks, revised absolute risks were estimated using the overall absolute risk for the study group. For study efficiency, we excluded all patients receiving ’average’ diabetes risk results from the subsequent intervention. This post randomization allocation strategy was justified because genotype represents a random allocation of parental alleles (‘Mendelian randomization’). Finally, because it would be unethical to discourage participants to participate in diabetes prevention behaviors, we designed our two diabetes genetic risk counseling interventions (for ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ result recipients) so that both groups would be motivated despite receiving opposing results.
For this initial assessment of the clinical implementation of genetic risk testing we assessed intermediate outcomes of attendance at a 12-week diabetes prevention course and changes in self-reported motivation. If effective, longer term studies with larger sample sizes will be needed to assess whether knowledge of diabetes genetic risk can help patients prevent diabetes.
We designed a randomized clinical trial designed to explore the motivational impact of disclosing both higher than average and lower than average genetic risk for type 2 diabetes. This design allowed exploration of both increased risk and false reassurance, and has implications for future studies in translational genomics.
To describe the process of structuring a partnership between academic researchers and two personalized genetic testing companies that would manage conflicts of interest while allowing researchers to study the impact of this nascent industry.
We developed a transparent process of ongoing communication about the interests of all research partners to address challenges in establishing study goals, survey development, data collection, analysis, and manuscript preparation. Using the existing literature on conflicts of interest and our experience, we created a checklist for academic and industry researchers seeking to structure research partnerships.
Our checklist includes questions about the risk to research participants, sponsorship of the study, control of data analysis, freedom to publish results, the impact of the research on industry customers, openness to input from all partners, sharing results before publication, and publication of industry-specific data. Transparency is critical to building trust between partners. Involving all partners in the research development enhanced the quality of our research and provided an opportunity to manage conflicts early in the research process.
Navigating relationships between academia and industry is complex and requires strategies that are transparent and responsive to the concerns of all. Employing a checklist of questions prior to beginning a research partnership may help to manage conflicts of interest.
conflicts of interest; direct-to-consumer; partnership; personalized genetic testing; personalized medicine
Brief, effective models of patient genetic education are needed for common, complex diseases. Using Alzheimer disease as a model, we compared participants’ risk knowledge and recall in extended versus condensed education protocols.
A four-site randomized clinical trial enrolled 280 first-degree relatives of individuals with Alzheimer disease (mean age = 58 years, 71% female); each received lifetime Alzheimer disease risk information (range: 13–74%) that incorporated apolipoprotein E genotype. In the condensed protocol, participants received an educational brochure in place of an in-person education session. Outcomes were assessed at 6 weeks and 6 months following risk disclosure.
The condensed protocol required less clinician time than the extended protocol (mean = 34 min vs. 77 min). The groups did not differ on recall of apolipoprotein E genotype or lifetime risk, and most participants in both groups recalled and retained this information over time. Both groups showed improvement from baseline in Alzheimer disease risk knowledge (e.g., understanding the magnitude of apolipoprotein E genotype effect on risk).
A condensed protocol for communicating genetic risk for Alzheimer disease achieved similar educational results as an extended protocol in this study. Further research should explore the efficacy of brief genetic education protocols for complex diseases in diverse populations.
Alzheimer disease; APOE; genetic counseling; health education; risk communication
The Minimental State Examination (MMSE) has not been validated in Arabic speaking populations. The Brookdale Cognitive Screening Test (BCST) has been developed for use in low schooling populations. We investigated the influence of gender, education and occupation in a cognitively normal community sample assessed with an Arabic translation of the MMSE and the BCST.
Cognitively normal subjects (n=266, 59.4 % males, mean age (SD): 72.4 (5.5) years) from an Arab community in northern Israel (Wadi Ara) were evaluated. Education was categorized into levels: 1=0–4 years, 2=5–8 years, 3=9–12 years. Effects of gender, education and occupation on MMSE and BCST were analyzed by ANOVA, taking age as a covariate.
The mean MMSE score of males [26.3 (4.1)] was higher than that of females [23.6 (4.2) points]. Two-way ANOVA showed a significant interaction between gender and education on MMSE (p=0.0017) and BCST scores (p=0.0002). The effect of gender on MMSE and BCST was significant in education level 1 (p<0.0001, both tests) and level 2 (p<0.05, both tests). For education level 1, MMSE and BCST scores were higher for males, while both scores were higher for females in education level 2. The effect of occupation was not significant for both genders.
Education and gender influence performance on the Arabic translation of the MMSE and BCST in cognitively normal elderly. Cognitively normal females with 0–4 years of education score lower than males. These results should be taken into consideration in the daily use of these instruments in Arabic.
Minimental state examination; MMSE; cognitive; Arabic; elderly; gender; education
Oxidative stress is involved in age-related cognitive decline. The dietary antioxidants, carotenoids, tocopherols, and vitamin A may play a role in the prevention or delay in cognitive decline. In this study, sera were obtained from 78 octogenarians and 220 centenarians from the Georgia Centenarian Study. Brain tissues were obtained from 47 centenarian decedents. Samples were analyzed for carotenoids, α-tocopherol, and retinol using HPLC. Analyte concentrations were compared with cognitive tests designed to evaluate global cognition, dementia, depression and cognitive domains (memory, processing speed, attention, and executive functioning). Serum lutein, zeaxanthin, and β-carotene concentrations were most consistently related to better cognition (P < 0.05) in the whole population and in the centenarians. Only serum lutein was significantly related to better cognition in the octogenarians. In brain, lutein and β-carotene were related to cognition with lutein being consistently associated with a range of measures. There were fewer significant relationships for α-tocopherol and a negative relationship between brain retinol concentrations and delayed recognition. These findings suggest that the status of certain carotenoids in the old may reflect their cognitive function. The protective effect may not be related to an antioxidant effect given that α-tocopherol was less related to cognition than these carotenoids.
Previous studies have shown association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in three contiguous genes (PON1, PON2 and PON3) encoding paraoxonase with risk of Alzheimer disease (AD). We evaluated the association of serum paraoxonase activity measured by phenyl acetate (PA) and thiobutyl butyrolactone (TBBL) with risk of AD and with 26 SNPs spanning the PON gene cluster in 266 AD cases and 306 sibling controls from the MIRAGE Study. The odds of AD (adjusted for age, gender and ethnicity) increased 20% for each standard deviation decrease in PA or TBBL activity. There were association signals with activity in all three genes. Haplotypes including SNPs spanning the PON genes were generally more significant than haplotypes comprising SNPs from one gene. Significant interactions were observed between SNP pairs located across the PON cluster with either serum activity measure as the outcome, and between several PON SNPs and PA activity with AD status as the outcome. Our results suggest that low serum paraoxonase activity is a risk factor for AD. Furthermore, multiple variants in PON influence serum paraoxonase activity and their effects may be synergistic.
Observational studies suggest cholinesterase inhibitors and/or memantine may delay clinical progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in 40% of individuals taking the medications. Given this response and existence of side effects, we sought to quantify medication use and benefits in a population-based study of incident AD cases.
The Cache County Dementia Progression study (DPS) enrolled and followed a cohort of 327 incident AD cases up to 9 years. Drug exposure was expressed using a persistency index (PI), calculated as total years of drug use divided by total years of observation. Linear mixed effects models examined PI, and interactions with sex and APOE ε4, as predictors of clinical progression on the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes (CDR-Sum).
Sixty-nine participants (21.1%) ever used cholinesterase inhibitors or memantine. There was a strong three-way interaction between PI, sex, and time. Among women, a higher PI (i.e. greater duration of use) of cholinesterase inhibitors was associated with slower progression on the MMSE and CDR-Sum, particularly among those with an APOE ε4 allele. In contrast, higher PI was associated with faster progression in males.
A low percentage of individuals with AD in the community are taking cholinesterase inhibitors or memantine. This study suggests that women, particularly those with an APOE ε4 allele, may receive the most benefit from these medications. With the newly approved increased dose of donepezil, it will be imperative to determine whether a higher dose is needed in men or whether other factors warrant consideration.
Cholinesterase inhibitor; Memantine; Incident Alzheimer’s disease; Population-based; Disease progression; Sex; APOE
The Framingham Heart Study has enrolled 3 generations of participants, the Original cohort (Gen 1) enrolled in 1948, the Offspring cohort (Gen 2) enrolled in 1971 and the Third Generation enrolled in 2002. Participants have been undergoing prospective surveillance for incident stroke and dementia and embedded within this cohort is the voluntary Framingham Brain Donation Program that was begun in 1997. Participants who register to become brain donors have had one or more brain MR and cognitive test batteries administered. In addition, they undergo neurological evaluation as indicated, record review and post-mortem next-of-kin interview to determine the presence, type and extent of antemortem, clinical neurological diagnoses and to assign a retrospective Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) Scale score. Between 1997 and 2009 there were 1806 deaths, 186 of which were among registered brain donors and of these 139 brains could be examined. 58% were deemed cognitively normal at death. We present results for 3 projects; the first was to examine the sensitivity and specificity of our clinical diagnosis against the gold standard of pathological AD in 59 persons who underwent detailed cognitive assessment in the two years prior to death; we observed a 77.3% sensitivity (2 persons with AD were diagnosed clinically as Lewy body dementia) and a 91.9% specificity. The second examined the correlation of regional Alzheimer-type pathology to cognitive status at death among 34 persons who were over the age of 75 and without any significant vascular or alternative neurodegenerative pathology and found that neurofibrillary tangle counts distinguished between persons who were controls, had mild cognitive impairment, mild or moderate dementia; tangles in dorsolateral frontal cortex best distinguished MCI and controls. The third project examined the extent and severity of vascular pathology, again in a larger sample of varying cognitive abilities and in a subsample of persons with either amnestic or non-amnestic MCI. We observed that an aggregate ischemic injury score was significantly higher in persons with a CDR score of 0.5 than in normal controls.
Brain; autopsy; epidemiology; alzheimer's disease; brain ischemia
Several observational studies suggested a link between health status and rate of decline among individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We sought to quantify the relationship in a population-based study of incident AD, and to compare global comorbidity ratings to counts of comorbid conditions and medications as predictors of AD progression.
Case-only cohort study arising from population-based longitudinal study of memory and aging.
Cache County, Utah
335 individuals with incident AD followed for up to 11 years.
Patient descriptors included sex, age, education, dementia duration at baseline, and APOE genotype. Measures of health status made at each visit included the GMHR (General Medical Health Rating), number of comorbid medical conditions, and number of non-psychiatric medications. Dementia outcomes included the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), Clinical Dementia Rating – sum of boxes (CDR-sb), and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Health Status tended to fluctuate over time within individuals. None of the baseline medical variables (GMHR, comorbidities, non-psychiatric medications) were associated with differences in rates of decline in longitudinal linear mixed effects models. Over time, low GMHR ratings, but not comorbidities or medications, were associated with poorer outcomes (MMSE: β=−1.07 p=0.01; CDR-sb: β=1.79 p<0.001; NPI: β=4.57 p=0.01)
Given that time-varying GMHR, but not baseline GMHR, was associated with the outcomes, there is likely a dynamic relationship between medical and cognitive health. GMHR is a more sensitive measure of health than simple counts of comorbidities or medications. Since health status is a potentially modifiable risk factor, further study is warranted.
Alzheimer; comorbidity; GMHR; disease progression; rate of decline; medical care; cohort study
Genetic testing for chronic disease susceptibility may motivate young adults for preventive behavior change. This nationally representative survey gave 521 young adults hypothetical scenarios of receiving genetic susceptibility results for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke and asked their (1) interest in such testing, (2) anticipated likelihood of improving diet and physical activity with high- and low-risk test results, and (3) readiness to make behavior change. Responses were analyzed by presence of established disease-risk factors. Respondents with high phenotypic diabetes risk reported increased likelihood of improving their diet and physical activity in response to high-risk results compared with those with low diabetes risk (odds ratio (OR), 1.82 (1.03, 3.21) for diet and OR, 2.64 (1.24, 5.64) for physical activity). In contrast, poor baseline diet (OR, 0.51 (0.27, 0.99)) and poor physical activity (OR, 0.53 (0.29, 0.99)) were associated with decreased likelihood of improving diet. Knowledge of genetic susceptibility may motivate young adults with higher personal diabetes risk for improvement in diet and exercise, but poor baseline behaviors are associated with decreased intention to make these changes. To be effective, genetic risk testing in young adults may need to be coupled with other strategies to enable behavior change.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12687-013-0140-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Genetic testing; Young adults; Chronic disease; Health behaviors; Prevention
The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) is an ongoing, longitudinal, multicenter study designed to develop clinical, imaging, genetic and biochemical biomarkers for the early detection and tracking of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study aimed to enroll 400 subjects with early mild cognitive impairment (MCI), 200 subjects with early AD and 200 normal controls and $67 million funding was provided by both the public and private sectors including the National Institutes on Aging, thirteen pharmaceutical companies and two Foundations that provided support through the Foundation for NIH (FNIH). This article reviews all papers published since the inception of the initiative and summarizes the results as of February, 2011. The major accomplishments of ADNI have been 1) the development of standardized methods for clinical, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers in a multi-center setting; 2) elucidation of the patterns and rates of change of imaging and CSF biomarker measurements in control, MCI and AD patients. CSF biomarkers are consistent with disease trajectories predicted by β amyloid (Aβ) cascade  and tau mediated neurodegeneration hypotheses for AD while brain atrophy and hypometabolism levels show predicted patterns but exhibit differing rates of change depending on region and disease severity; 3) the assessment of alternative methods of diagnostic categorization. Currently, the best classifiers combine optimum features from multiple modalities including MRI, FDG-PET, CSF biomarkers and clinical tests; 4) the development of methods for the early detection of AD. CSF biomarkers, Aβ42 and tau as well as amyloid PET may reflect the earliest steps in AD pathology in mildly or even non-symptomatic subjects and are leading candidates for the detection of AD in its preclinical stages; 5) the improvement of clinical trial efficiency through the identification of subjects most likely to undergo imminent future clinical decline and the use of more sensitive outcome measures to reduce sample sizes. Baseline cognitive and/or MRI measures generally predicted future decline better than other modalities whereas MRI measures of change were shown to be the most efficient outcome measures; 6) the confirmation of the AD risk loci CLU, CR1 and PICALM and the identification of novel candidate risk loci; 7) worldwide impact through the establishment of ADNI-like programs in Europe, Asia and Australia; 8) understanding the biology and pathobiology of normal aging, MCI and AD through integration of ADNI biomarker data with clinical data from ADNI to stimulate research that will resolve controversies about competing hypotheses on the etiopathogenesis of AD thereby advancing efforts to find disease modifying drugs for AD; and 9) the establishment of infrastructure to allow sharing of all raw and processed data without embargo to interested scientific investigators throughout the world. The ADNI study was extended by a two year Grand Opportunities grant in 2009 and a renewal of ADNI (ADNI2) in October, 2010 through to 2016, with enrollment of an additional 550 participants.
Objective: Our goal was to evaluate the association of APOE with amyloid deposition, cerebrospinal fluid levels (CSF) of Aβ, tau, and p-tau, brain atrophy, cognition and cognitive complaints in E-MCI patients and cognitively healthy older adults (HC) in the ADNI-2 cohort.
Methods: Two-hundred and nine E-MCI and 123 HC participants from the ADNI-2 cohort were included. We evaluated the impact of diagnostic status (E-MCI vs. HC) and APOE ε4 status (ε4 positive vs. ε4 negative) on cortical amyloid deposition (AV-45/Florbetapir SUVR PET scans), brain atrophy (structural MRI scans processed using voxel-based morphometry and Freesurfer version 5.1), CSF levels of Aβ, tau, and p-tau, and cognitive performance and complaints.
Results: E-MCI participants showed significantly impaired cognition, higher levels of cognitive complaints, greater levels of tau and p-tau, and subcortical and cortical atrophy relative to HC participants (p < 0.05). Cortical amyloid deposition and CSF levels of Aβ were significantly associated with APOE ε4 status but not E-MCI diagnosis, with ε4 positive participants showing more amyloid deposition and lower levels of CSF Aβ than ε4 negative participants. Other effects of APOE ε4 status on cognition and CSF tau levels were also observed.
APOE ε4 status is associated with amyloid accumulation and lower CSF Aβ, as well as increased CSF tau levels in early prodromal stages of AD (E-MCI) and HC. Alternatively, neurodegeneration, cognitive impairment, and increased complaints are primarily associated with a diagnosis of E-MCI. These findings underscore the importance of considering APOE genotype when evaluating biomarkers in early stages of disease.
apolipoprotein E (APOE); early mild cognitive impairment (E-MCI); Florbetapir/AV-45/Amyvid; positron emission tomography (PET); magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); Alzheimer's disease neuroimaging initiative (ADNI)
Background: The increased availability of genetic tests for common, complex diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), raises questions about what people are willing to pay for these services. Methods: We studied willingness-to-pay for genetic testing in a study of AD risk assessment that included APOE genotype disclosure among 276 first-degree relatives of persons with AD. Results: Seventy-one percent reported that they would ask for such testing from their doctor if it were covered by health insurance, and 60% would ask for it even if it required self-pay. Forty-one percent were willing to pay more than $100 for testing, and more than half would have been willing to pay for the test out of pocket. Participants who learned that they were APOE ɛ4 positive and those who had higher education were less likely to want testing if covered by insurance, possibly to avoid discrimination. Conclusion: This is the first report to examine willingness to pay for susceptibility genetic testing in a sample of participants who had actually undergone such testing. These findings reveal that some participants find valuable personal utility in genetic risk information even when such information does not have proven clinical utility.
Susceptibility testing for common, complex adult-onset diseases is projected to become more commonplace as the rapid pace of genomic discoveries continues, and evidence regarding the potential benefits and harms of such testing is needed to inform medical practice and health policy. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) testing for risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) provides a paradigm in which to examine the process and impact of disclosing genetic susceptibility for a prevalent, severe and incurable neurological condition. This review summarizes findings from a series of multi-site randomized clinical trials examining psychological and behavioral responses to various methods of genetic risk assessment for AD using APOE disclosure. We discuss challenges involved in disease risk estimation and communication and the extent to which participants comprehend and perceive utility in their genetic risk information. Findings on the psychological impact of test results are presented (e.g., distress), along with data on participants’ health behavior and insurance purchasing responses (e.g., long term care). Finally, we report comparisons of the safety and efficacy of intensive genetic counseling approaches to briefer models that emphasize streamlined processes and educational materials. The implications of these findings for the emerging field of personal genomics are discussed, with directions identified for future research.
Progression of Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) is highly variable. Most estimates derive from convenience samples from dementia clinics or research centers where there is substantial potential for survival bias and other distortions. In a population-based sample of incident AD cases, we examined progression of impairment in cognition, function, and neuropsychiatric symptoms, and the influence of selected variables on these domains.
Longitudinal, prospective cohort study
Cache County (Utah)
328 persons diagnosed with Possible/Probable AD
Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), Clinical Dementia Rating sum-of-boxes (CDR-sb), and Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Over a mean follow-up of 3.80 (range 0.07–12.90) years, the mean (S.D.) annual rates of change were −1.53 (2.69) on the MMSE, 1.44 (1.82) on the CDR-sb, and 2.55 (5.37) scale points on the NPI. Among surviving participants, 30–58% progressed less than one point/year on these measures, even 5–7 years after dementia onset. Rates of change were correlated between MMSE and CDR-sb (r=−0.62, df=201, p<0.001) and between the CDR-sb and NPI (r=0.20, df=206, p<0.004). Females (LR χ2=8.7, df=2, p=0.013) and those with younger onset (LR χ2=5.7, df=2, p=0.058) declined faster on the MMSE. Although one or more APOE ε4 alleles and ever-use of FDA-approved anti-dementia medications were associated with initial MMSE scores, neither was related to the rate of progression in any domain.
A significant proportion of persons with AD progresses slowly. The results underscore differences between population- vs. clinic-based samples and suggest ongoing need to identify factors that may slow the progression of AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; dementia; cognition; neuropsychiatric symptoms; progression; decline
To evaluate the association of genetic variation with late-onset Alzheimer disease (AD) in African Americans, including genes implicated in recent genome-wide association studies of whites.
We analyzed a genome-wide set of 2.5 million imputed markers to evaluate the genetic basis of AD in an African American population.
Five hundred thirteen well-characterized African American AD cases and 496 cognitively normal African American control subjects.
Data were collected from multiple sites as part of the Multi-Institutional Research on Alzheimer Genetic Epidemiology (MIRAGE) Study and the Henry Ford Health System as part of the Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors for Alzheimer Disease Among African Americans (GenerAAtions) Study.
Several significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were observed in the region of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). After adjusting for the confounding effects of APOE genotype, one of these SNPs, rs6859 in PVRL2, remained significantly associated with AD (P=.0087). Association was also observed with SNPs in CLU, PICALM, BIN1, EPHA1, MS4A, ABCA7, and CD33, although the effect direction for some SNPs and the most significant SNPs differed from findings in data sets consisting of whites. Finally, using the African American genome-wide association study data set as a discovery sample, we obtained suggestive evidence of association with SNPs for several novel candidate genes.
Some genes contribute to AD pathogenesis in both white and African American cohorts, although it is unclear whether the causal variants are the same. A larger African American sample will be needed to confirm novel gene associations, which may be population specific.
Hippocampal sclerosis is a relatively common neuropathological finding (∼10% of individuals over the age of 85 years) characterized by cell loss and gliosis in the hippocampus that is not explained by Alzheimer’s disease. Hippocampal sclerosis pathology can be associated with different underlying causes, and we refer to hippocampal sclerosis in the aged brain as hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing. Much remains unknown about hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing. We combined three different large autopsy cohorts: University of Kentucky Alzheimer’s Disease Centre, the Nun Study and the Georgia Centenarian Study to obtain a pool of 1110 patients, all of whom were evaluated neuropathologically at the University of Kentucky. We focused on the subset of cases with neuropathology-confirmed hippocampal sclerosis (n = 106). For individuals aged ≥95 years at death (n = 179 in our sample), each year of life beyond the age of 95 years correlated with increased prevalence of hippocampal sclerosis pathology and decreased prevalence of ‘definite’ Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Aberrant TAR DNA protein 43 immunohistochemistry was seen in 89.9% of hippocampal sclerosis positive patients compared with 9.7% of hippocampal sclerosis negative patients. TAR DNA protein 43 immunohistochemistry can be used to demonstrate that the disease is usually bilateral even when hippocampal sclerosis pathology is not obvious by haematoxylin and eosin stains. TAR DNA protein 43 immunohistochemistry was negative on brain sections from younger individuals (n = 10) after hippocampectomy due to seizures, who had pathologically confirmed hippocampal sclerosis. There was no association between cases with hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing and apolipoprotein E genotype. Age of death and clinical features of hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing (with or without aberrant TAR DNA protein 43) were distinct from previously published cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration TAR DNA protein 43. To help sharpen our ability to discriminate patients with hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing clinically, the longitudinal cognitive profile of 43 patients with hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing was compared with the profiles of 75 controls matched for age, gender, education level and apolipoprotein E genotype. These individuals were followed from intake assessment, with 8.2 (average) longitudinal cognitive assessments. A neuropsychological profile with relatively high-verbal fluency but low word list recall distinguished the hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing group at intake (P < 0.015) and also 5.5–6.5 years before death (P < 0.005). This may provide a first step in clinical differentiation of hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing versus pure Alzheimer’s disease in their earliest stages. In summary, in the largest series of autopsy-verified patients with hippocampal sclerosis to date, we characterized the clinical and pathological features associated with hippocampal sclerosis associated with ageing.
biomarkers; PGRN; epilepsy; FTLD; cerebrovascular; stroke
In vitro and animal model studies suggest that transthyretin (TTR) inhibits the production of the amyloid β protein, a major contributor to Alzheimer disease (AD) pathogenesis. We evaluated the association of 16 TTR single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with AD risk in 158 African American and 469 Caucasian discordant sibships from the MIRAGE Study. There was no evidence for association of TTR with AD in either population sample. To examine the possibility that TTR SNPs affect specific components of the AD process, we tested association of these SNPs with four measures of neurodegeneration and cerebrovascular disease defined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in a subset of 48 African American and 265 Caucasian sibships. Five of seven common SNPs and several haplotypes were significantly associated with hippocampal atrophy in the Caucasian sample. Two of these SNPs also showed marginal evidence for association in the African American sample. Results for the other MRI traits were unremarkable. This study highlights the potential value of neuroimaging endophenotypes as a tool for finding genes influencing AD pathogenesis.
This study evaluates the extent to which psychological adaptation (validated measures of depressive symptoms, anxiety, and test-specific distress) after genetic susceptibility testing is influenced by changes in beliefs about Alzheimer's disease (AD) and sharing of test results with others. Adult children of AD patients (N=269) from a randomized clinical trial involving genetic testing for apolipoprotein E (APOE) provided information before, as well as 6 weeks and 12 months after results disclosure. The levels of adaptation varied highly among participants at 12-month assessment. Participants who learned that they were ɛ4 negative (lower risk) had a reduction in perceived risk and concern about developing AD compared with those who learned that they were ɛ4 positive. Those who received results through an extended educational protocol (three in-person visits) had a larger decline in AD concern than those in a condensed protocol (educational brochure and two in-person visits). Increase in AD concern 6 weeks after disclosure was associated with increase in depression scores (b=0.20, P<0.01) and anxiety levels (b=0.20, P<0.01), and higher distress associated with AD genetic testing (b=0.18, P=0.02) 1 year after testing. Increase in perceived risk (b=0.16, P=0.04) was also associated with higher AD genetic testing distress. Sharing the test results with health professionals and friends (but not family) was associated with decrease in depression (b = −0.11, P = 0.05) and anxiety levels (b=−0.16, P<0.01), respectively after a year. Enhancing discussion with regard to risks and concerns about AD during pretesting counseling and obtaining support through sharing the results after testing may help facilitate test recipients' long-term psychological adaptation.
susceptibility genetic testing; AD; APOE; results disclosure; communication; risk perceptions