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1.  Open questions for Alzheimer’s disease immunotherapy 
Perhaps more definitively than any other class of novel Alzheimer’s disease (AD) therapy, pre-clinical studies in mouse models of amyloid β (Aβ) deposition have established the disease-modifying potential of anti-Aβ immunotherapy. Despite disappointing results to date from anti-Aβ immunotherapy therapeutic trials, there is continued hope that such immunotherapies, especially if used in the preclinical stages, could prove to be the first disease-modifying therapies available for AD. The general optimism that Aβ-targeting and emerging tau-targeting immunotherapies may prove to be disease modifying is tempered by many unanswered questions regarding these therapeutic approaches, including but not limited to i) lack of precise understanding of mechanisms of action, ii) the factors that regulate antibody exposure in the brain, iii) the optimal target epitope, and iv) the mechanisms underlying side effects. In this review I discuss how answering these and other questions could increase the likelihood of therapeutic success. As passive immunotherapies are also likely to be extremely expensive, I also raise questions relating to cost-benefit of biologic-based therapies for AD that could limit future impact of these therapies by limiting access due to economic constraints.
doi:10.1186/alzrt233
PMCID: PMC4056616  PMID: 24393284
2.  Biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease in plasma, serum and blood - conceptual and practical problems 
Substances produced throughout the body are detectable in the blood, which is the most common biological fluid used in clinical testing. Biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease (AD) have long been sought in the blood, but none has become an established or validated diagnostic test. Companion reviews in Alzheimer's Research & Therapy will review specific types of biomarkers or applications; in this overview, we cover key concepts related to AD blood biomarker studies in general. Reasons for the difficulty of detecting markers of a brain-specific disorder, such as AD, in the blood are outlined; these pose conceptual challenges for blood biomarker discovery and development. Applications of blood tests in AD go beyond screening and diagnostic testing; other potential uses are risk assessment, prognostication, and evaluation of treatment target engagement, toxicity, and outcome. Opportunities and questions that may surround these different uses are discussed. A systematic approach to biomarker discovery, detection, assay development and quality control, sample collection, handling and storage, and design and analysis of clinical studies needs to be implemented at every step of discovery and translation to identify an interpretable and useful biomarker.
doi:10.1186/alzrt164
PMCID: PMC3706797  PMID: 23470193
3.  Apolipoprotein E, amyloid-ß clearance and therapeutic opportunities in Alzheimer's disease 
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterised by extracellular amyloid-ß (Aß) and intraneuronal tau protein brain pathologies. The most significant risk factor for non-familial AD is the presence of the E4 isoform of the cholesterol transporter apolipoprotein E (apoE). Despite extensive basic research, the exact role of apoE in disease aetiology remains unclear. Correspondingly, therapeutic targeting of apoE in AD is at an early preclinical stage. In this review, I discuss the key interactions of apoE and Aß pathology, the current progress of preclinical animal models and the caveats of existing therapeutic approaches targeting apoE. Finally, novel Alzheimer's genetics and Aß-independent disease mechanisms are highlighted.
doi:10.1186/alzrt135
PMCID: PMC3506946  PMID: 22929359
4.  Measuring clinical progression in MCI and pre-MCI populations: enrichment and optimizing clinical outcomes over time 
Recent biomarker research has improved the identification of individuals with very early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and has demonstrated that biomarkers are sensitive for measuring progression in the pre-dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage and even pre-symptomatic or pre-MCI stage of AD. Because there are no validated biomarkers in AD, it is important to seek out clinical outcomes that are also sensitive for measuring progression in these very early stages of disease. Clinical outcomes are more subjective and more affected by measurement error than biomarkers but represent the core aspects of the disease and are critical for validation of biomarkers and for evaluation of clinical relevance. Identification of individuals with pre-MCI stages of AD will need to continue to rely on biomarkers, but the identification of individuals with MCI who will progress to AD can be achieved with biomarkers or clinical criteria. Although standard clinical outcomes have been shown to be less sensitive to progression than biomarker outcomes in MCI and pre-MCI populations, non-standard scoring has improved the performance of the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale cognitive subscale, making it more sensitive to progression. Neuropsychological cognitive testing items are optimal for measuring progression in pre-MCI populations, and current research is exploring the best ways to combine these items into a composite cognitive score with maximum responsiveness. In an MCI stage, cognitive, functional, and global items all change, and the best single composite score for measuring progression may involve all of these aspects of the disease. The best chance of success in demonstrating treatment effects in clinical trials will be achieved in a well-defined pre-MCI or MCI population and with an outcome that tracks well with clinical progression over time and with time. A partial least squares model can be used to identify these optimal weighted combinations.
doi:10.1186/alzrt127
PMCID: PMC3506938  PMID: 22805433
5.  Imaging as a biomarker in drug discovery for Alzheimer’s disease: is MRI a suitable technology? 
This review provides perspectives on the utility of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a neuroimaging approach in the development of novel treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. These considerations were generated in a roundtable at a recent Wellcome Trust meeting that included experts from academia and industry. It was agreed that MRI, either structural or functional, could be used as a diagnostic, for assessing worsening of disease status, for monitoring vascular pathology, and for stratifying clinical trial populations. It was agreed also that MRI implementation is in its infancy, requiring more evidence of association with the disease states, test-retest data, better standardization across multiple clinical sites, and application in multimodal approaches which include other imaging technologies, such as positron emission tomography, electroencephalography, and magnetoencephalography.
doi:10.1186/alzrt276
PMCID: PMC4255417  PMID: 25484927
6.  The clinical characteristics of dementia with Lewy bodies and a consideration of prodromal diagnosis 
Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the second most common type of degenerative dementia following Alzheimer’s disease (AD). DLB is clinically and pathologically related to Parkinson's disease (PD) and PD dementia, and the three disorders can be viewed as existing on a spectrum of Lewy body disease. In recent years there has been a concerted effort to establish the phenotypes of AD and PD in the prodromal phase (before the respective syndromes of cognitive and motor impairment are expressed). Evidence for the prodromal presentation of DLB is also emerging. This paper briefly reviews what is known about the clinical presentation of prodromal DLB before discussing the pathology of Lewy body disease and how this relates to potential biomarkers of prodromal DLB. The presenting features of DLB can be broadly placed in three categories: cognitive impairment (particularly nonamnestic cognitive impairments), behavioural/psychiatric phenomena (for example, hallucinations, rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD)) and physical symptoms (for example, parkinsonism, decreased sense of smell, autonomic dysfunction). Some noncognitive symptoms such as constipation, RBD, hyposmia and postural dizziness can predate the onset of memory impairment by several years in DLB. Pathological studies of Lewy body disease have found that the earliest sites of involvement are the olfactory bulb, the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagal nerve, the peripheral autonomic nervous system, including the enteric nervous system, and the brainstem. Some of the most promising early markers for DLB include the presence of RBD, autonomic dysfunction or hyposmia, 123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine cardiac scintigraphy, measures of substantia nigra pathology and skin biopsy for α-synuclein in peripheral autonomic nerves. In the absence of disease-modifying therapies, the diagnosis of prodromal DLB is of limited use in the clinic. That said, knowledge of the prodromal development of DLB could help clinicians identify cases of DLB where the diagnosis is uncertain. Prodromal diagnosis is of great importance in research, where identifying Lewy body disease at an earlier stage may allow researchers to investigate the initial phases of dementia pathophysiology, develop treatments designed to interrupt the development of the dementia syndrome and accurately identify the patients most likely to benefit from these treatments.
doi:10.1186/alzrt274
PMCID: PMC4255387  PMID: 25484925
7.  Targeting the proper amyloid-beta neuronal toxins: a path forward for Alzheimer’s disease immunotherapeutics 
Levels of amyloid-beta monomer and deposited amyloid-beta in the Alzheimer’s disease brain are orders of magnitude greater than soluble amyloid-beta oligomer levels. Monomeric amyloid-beta has no known direct toxicity. Insoluble fibrillar amyloid-beta has been proposed to be an in vivo mechanism for removal of soluble amyloid-beta and exhibits relatively low toxicity. In contrast, soluble amyloid-beta oligomers are widely reported to be the most toxic amyloid-beta form, both causing acute synaptotoxicity and inducing neurodegenerative processes. None of the amyloid-beta immunotherapies currently in clinical development selectively target soluble amyloid-beta oligomers, and their lack of efficacy is not unexpected considering their selectivity for monomeric or fibrillar amyloid-beta (or both) rather than soluble amyloid-beta oligomers. Because they exhibit acute, memory-compromising synaptic toxicity and induce chronic neurodegenerative toxicity and because they exist at very low in vivo levels in the Alzheimer’s disease brain, soluble amyloid-beta oligomers constitute an optimal immunotherapeutic target that should be pursued more aggressively.
doi:10.1186/alzrt272
PMCID: PMC4100318  PMID: 25045405
8.  Dietary regulation of PI3K/AKT/GSK-3β pathway in Alzheimer’s disease 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by the formation of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles composed of phosphorylated Tau. Several findings suggest that correcting signal dysregulation for Tau phosphorylation in AD may offer a potential therapeutic approach. The PI3K/AKT/GSK-3β pathway has been shown to play a pivotal role in neuroprotection, enhancing cell survival by stimulating cell proliferation and inhibiting apoptosis. This pathway appears to be crucial in AD because it promotes protein hyper-phosphorylation in Tau. Understanding those regulations may provide a better efficacy of new therapeutic approaches. In this review, we summarize advances in the involvement of the PI3K/AKT/GSK-3β pathways in cell signaling of neuronal cells. We also review recent studies on the features of several diets and the signaling pathway involved in AD.
doi:10.1186/alzrt265
PMCID: PMC4075129  PMID: 25031641
9.  Acetylation: a new key to unlock tau’s role in neurodegeneration 
The identification of tau protein as a major constituent of neurofibrillary tangles spurred considerable effort devoted to identifying and validating pathways through which therapeutics may alleviate tau burden in Alzheimer’s disease and related tauopathies, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy associated with sport- and military-related injuries. Most tau-based therapeutic strategies have previously focused on modulating tau phosphorylation, given that tau species present within neurofibrillary tangles are hyperphosphorylated on a number of different residues. However, the recent discovery that tau is modified by acetylation necessitates additional research to provide greater mechanistic insight into the spectrum of physiological consequences of tau acetylation, which may hold promise as a novel therapeutic target. In this review, we discuss recent findings evaluating tau acetylation in the context of previously accepted notions regarding tau biology and pathophysiology. We also examine the evidence demonstrating the neuroprotective and beneficial consequences of inhibiting histone deacetylase (HDAC)6, a tau deacetylase, including its effect on microtubule stabilization. We also discuss the rationale for pharmacologically modulating HDAC6 in tau-based pathologies as a novel therapeutic strategy.
doi:10.1186/alzrt259
PMCID: PMC4075151  PMID: 25031639
10.  Truncated and modified amyloid-beta species 
Alzheimer’s disease pathology is closely connected to the processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) resulting in the formation of a variety of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides. They are found as insoluble aggregates in senile plaques, the histopathological hallmark of the disease. These peptides are also found in soluble, mostly monomeric and dimeric, forms in the interstitial and cerebrospinal fluid. Due to the combination of several enzymatic activities during APP processing, Aβ peptides exist in multiple isoforms possessing different N-termini and C-termini. These peptides include, to a certain extent, part of the juxtamembrane and transmembrane domain of APP. Besides differences in size, post-translational modifications of Aβ – including oxidation, phosphorylation, nitration, racemization, isomerization, pyroglutamylation, and glycosylation – generate a plethora of peptides with different physiological and pathological properties that may modulate disease progression.
doi:10.1186/alzrt258
PMCID: PMC4055046  PMID: 25031638
11.  Roadblocks for integration of novel biomarker concepts into clinical routine: the peptoid approach 
In the field of Alzheimer’s disease, the development of novel biomarker assays is critically needed to improve the early diagnosis of the disease, to estimate the risk of developing the disease, to predict the rate of cognitive decline, and to monitor the response or effectiveness of a therapy. The molecular mechanisms of the disease are becoming more evident. This basic knowledge has yet to be translated into novel biomarker tools with a clinical value for general use by the community. There is therefore high interest in evaluating new technological approaches beside the classical immunoassay approach. The present paper discusses the hypothesis that there might be an adaptive immune response, unique to Alzheimer’s disease, which can be visualized by the presence in body fluids of antibodies against specific analytes. Current technologies to identify such antibodies are reviewed. In addition, the major challenges to transfer discovery results of the novel antibody-based biomarker assays to a clinically relevant test will be discussed.
doi:10.1186/alzrt253
PMCID: PMC4055076  PMID: 25031636
12.  Lewy body dementia: the impact on patients and caregivers 
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common neurodegenerative dementia in older adults, yet there remains a delay in diagnosis that limits healthcare providers’ ability to maximize therapeutic outcomes and enhance patient and caregiver quality of life. The impact of LBD on patients includes limiting the potential exposure to medications that may cause adverse outcomes, and addressing how the disease manifestations, such as autonomic features and behavior, affect quality of life. LBD impact on caregivers has been discussed to a greater degree in the literature, and there is clear evidence of caregiver burden and grief associated with disease manifestations. Other common caregiving concerns, such as access to care, prevention of hospitalization, managing behavior, and reviewing prognosis and nursing home placement, are important to comprehensively address the needs of patients with LBD and their caregivers.
doi:10.1186/alzrt251
PMCID: PMC4054937  PMID: 25031635
13.  Neuroimaging characteristics of dementia with Lewy bodies 
This review summarises the findings and applications from neuroimaging studies in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), highlighting key differences between DLB and other subtypes of dementia. We also discuss the increasingly important role of imaging biomarkers in differential diagnosis and outline promising areas for future research in DLB. DLB shares common clinical, neuropsychological and pathological features with Parkinson’s disease dementia and other dementia subtypes, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the development of consensus diagnostic criteria, the sensitivity for differential diagnosis of DLB in clinical practice remains low and many DLB patients will be misdiagnosed. The importance of developing accurate imaging markers in dementia is highlighted by the potential for treatments targeting specific molecular abnormalities as well as the responsiveness to cholinesterase inhibitors and marked neuroleptic sensitivity of DLB. We review various brain imaging techniques that have been applied to investigate DLB, including the characteristic nigrostriatal degeneration in DLB using positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) tracers. Dopamine transporter loss has proven to reliably differentiate DLB from other dementias and has been incorporated into the revised clinical diagnostic criteria for DLB. To date, this remains the 'gold standard' for diagnostic imaging of DLB. Regional cerebral blood flow, 18 F-fluorodeoxygluclose-PET and SPECT have also identified marked deficits in the occipital regions with relative sparing of the medial temporal lobe when compared to Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, structural, diffusion, and functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques have shown alterations in structure, white matter integrity, and functional activity in DLB. We argue that the multimodal identification of DLB-specific biomarkers has the potential to improve ante-mortem diagnosis and contribute to our understanding of the pathological background of DLB and its progression.
doi:10.1186/alzrt248
PMCID: PMC4055038  PMID: 25031634
14.  Perspectives on future Alzheimer therapies: amyloid-β protofibrils - a new target for immunotherapy with BAN2401 in Alzheimer’s disease 
The symptomatic drugs currently on the market for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have no effect on disease progression, and this creates a large unmet medical need. The type of drug that has developed most rapidly in the last decade is immunotherapy: vaccines and, especially, passive vaccination with monoclonal antibodies. Antibodies are attractive drugs as they can be made highly specific for their target and often with few side effects. Data from recent clinical AD trials indicate that a treatment effect by immunotherapy is possible, providing hope for a new generation of drugs. The first anti-amyloid-beta (anti-Aβ) vaccine developed by Elan, AN1792, was halted in phase 2 because of aseptic meningoencephalitis. However, in a follow-up study, patients with antibody response to the vaccine demonstrated reduced cognitive decline, supporting the hypothesis that Aβ immunotherapy may have clinically relevant effects. Bapineuzumab (Elan/Pfizer Inc./Johnson & Johnson), a monoclonal antibody targeting fibrillar Aβ, was stopped because the desired clinical effect was not seen. Solanezumab (Eli Lilly and Company) was developed to target soluble, monomeric Aβ. In two phase 3 studies, Solanezumab did not meet primary endpoints. When data from the two studies were pooled, a positive pattern emerged, revealing a significant slowing of cognitive decline in the subgroup of mild AD. The Arctic mutation has been shown to specifically increase the formation of soluble Aβ protofibrils, an Aβ species shown to be toxic to neurons and likely to be present in all cases of AD. A monoclonal antibody, mAb158, was developed to target Aβ protofibrils with high selectivity. It has at least a 1,000-fold higher selectivity for protofibrils as compared with monomers of Aβ, thus targeting the toxic species of the peptide. A humanized version of mAb158, BAN2401, has now entered a clinical phase 2b trial in a collaboration between BioArctic Neuroscience and Eisai without the safety concerns seen in previous phase 1 and 2a trials. Experiences from the field indicate the importance of initiating treatment early in the course of the disease and of enriching the trial population by improving the diagnostic accuracy. BAN2401 is a promising candidate for Aβ immunotherapy in early AD. Other encouraging efforts in immunotherapy as well as in the small-molecule field offer hope for new innovative therapies for AD in the future.
doi:10.1186/alzrt246
PMCID: PMC4054967  PMID: 25031633
15.  Interpreting Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials in light of the effects on amyloid-β 
The failure of several potential Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics in mid- to late-stage clinical development has provoked significant discussion regarding the validity of the amyloid hypothesis. In this review, we propose a minimum criterion of 25% for amyloid-β (Aβ) lowering to achieve clinically meaningful slowing of disease progression. This criterion is based on genetic, risk factor, clinical and preclinical studies. We then compare this minimum criterion with the degree of Aβ lowering produced by the potential therapies that have failed in clinical trials. If the proposed minimum Aβ lowering criterion is used, then the amyloid hypothesis has yet to be adequately tested in the clinic. Therefore, we believe that the amyloid hypothesis remains valid and remains to be confirmed or refuted in future clinical trials.
doi:10.1186/alzrt244
PMCID: PMC4014014  PMID: 25031632
16.  Protein recycling pathways in neurodegenerative diseases 
Many progressive neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and frontotemporal lobe dementia, are associated with the formation of insoluble intracellular proteinaceous inclusions. It is therefore imperative to understand the factors that regulate normal, as well as abnormal, protein recycling in neurons. Dysfunction of the ubiquitin-proteasome or autophagy pathways might contribute to the pathology of various neurodegenerative diseases. Induction of these pathways may offer a rational therapeutic strategy for a number of these diseases.
doi:10.1186/alzrt243
PMCID: PMC4055009  PMID: 25031631
17.  Neuroimaging in repetitive brain trauma 
Sports-related concussions are one of the major causes of mild traumatic brain injury. Although most patients recover completely within days to weeks, those who experience repetitive brain trauma (RBT) may be at risk for developing a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While this condition is most commonly observed in athletes who experience repetitive concussive and/or subconcussive blows to the head, such as boxers, football players, or hockey players, CTE may also affect soldiers on active duty. Currently, the only means by which to diagnose CTE is by the presence of phosphorylated tau aggregations post-mortem. Non-invasive neuroimaging, however, may allow early diagnosis as well as improve our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of RBT. The purpose of this article is to review advanced neuroimaging methods used to investigate RBT, including diffusion tensor imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, functional magnetic resonance imaging, susceptibility weighted imaging, and positron emission tomography. While there is a considerable literature using these methods in brain injury in general, the focus of this review is on RBT and those subject populations currently known to be susceptible to RBT, namely athletes and soldiers. Further, while direct detection of CTE in vivo has not yet been achieved, all of the methods described in this review provide insight into RBT and will likely lead to a better characterization (diagnosis), in vivo, of CTE than measures of self-report.
doi:10.1186/alzrt239
PMCID: PMC3978843  PMID: 25031630
18.  Fyn kinase inhibition as a novel therapy for Alzheimer’s disease 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder, afflicting more than one-third of people over the age of 85. While many therapies for AD are in late-stage clinical testing, rational drug design based on distinct signaling pathways in this disorder is only now emerging. Here we review the putative signaling pathway of amyloid-beta (Aβ), by which the tyrosine kinase Fyn is activated via cell surface binding of Aβ oligomers to cellular prion protein. Several lines of evidence implicate Fyn in the pathogenesis of AD, and its interaction with both Aβ and Tau renders Fyn a unique therapeutic target that addresses both of the major pathologic hallmarks of AD. We are currently enrolling patients in a phase Ib study of saracatinib (AZD0530), a small molecule inhibitor with high potency for Src and Fyn, for the treatment of AD. The results of this trial and a planned phase IIa multisite study will provide important data regarding the potential for this therapeutic strategy in AD.
doi:10.1186/alzrt238
PMCID: PMC3978417  PMID: 24495408
19.  Circulating biomarkers that predict incident dementia 
Dementia is currently diagnosed based on clinical symptoms and signs, but significant brain damage has already occurred by the time a clinical diagnosis of dementia is made, and it is increasingly recognized that this may be too late for any effective intervention. It would therefore be of great public health and preventive value to define a variety of biomarkers that could permit early detection of persons at a higher risk for developing dementia, and specifically dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, for the purpose of large-scale screening, circulating biomarkers are more appropriate because they are less invasive than lumbar puncture, less costly than brain amyloid imaging and can be easily assessed repeatedly in a primary care clinic setting. In this brief review we will review a number of candidate molecules implicated as possible predictors of dementia risk. These candidates include markers of vascular injury, metabolic and inflammatory states, amyloid and tau pathway markers, measures of neural degeneration and repair efforts, and other molecules that might contribute to anatomical and functional changes characteristic of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
doi:10.1186/alzrt235
PMCID: PMC4056619  PMID: 25031629
20.  Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: a spectrum of neuropathological changes following repetitive brain trauma in athletes and military personnel 
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that occurs in association with repetitive traumatic brain injury experienced in sport and military service. In most instances, the clinical symptoms of the disease begin after a long period of latency ranging from several years to several decades. The initial symptoms are typically insidious, consisting of irritability, impulsivity, aggression, depression, short-term memory loss and heightened suicidality. The symptoms progress slowly over decades to include cognitive deficits and dementia. The pathology of CTE is characterized by the accumulation of phosphorylated tau protein in neurons and astrocytes in a pattern that is unique from other tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease. The hyperphosphorylated tau abnormalities begin focally, as perivascular neurofibrillary tangles and neurites at the depths of the cerebral sulci, and then spread to involve superficial layers of adjacent cortex before becoming a widespread degeneration affecting medial temporal lobe structures, diencephalon and brainstem. Most instances of CTE (>85% of cases) show abnormal accumulations of phosphorylated 43 kDa TAR DNA binding protein that are partially colocalized with phosphorylated tau protein. As CTE is characterized pathologically by frontal and temporal lobe atrophy, by abnormal deposits of phosphorylated tau and by 43 kDa TAR DNA binding protein and is associated clinically with behavioral and personality changes, as well as cognitive impairments, CTE is increasingly categorized as an acquired frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Currently, some of the greatest challenges are that CTE cannot be diagnosed during life and the incidence and prevalence of the disorder remain uncertain. Furthermore, the contribution of age, gender, genetics, stress, alcohol and substance abuse to the development of CTE remains to be determined.
doi:10.1186/alzrt234
PMCID: PMC3979082  PMID: 24423082
21.  Clinicopathologic assessment and imaging of tauopathies in neurodegenerative dementias 
Microtubule-associated protein tau encoded by the MAPT gene binds to microtubules and is important for maintaining neuronal morphology and function. Alternative splicing of MAPT pre-mRNA generates six major tau isoforms in the adult central nervous system resulting in tau proteins with three or four microtubule-binding repeat domains. In a group of neurodegenerative disorders called tauopathies, tau becomes aberrantly hyperphosphorylated and dissociates from microtubules, resulting in a progressive accumulation of intracellular tau aggregates. The spectrum of sporadic frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with tau pathology includes progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, and Pick’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is considered the most prevalent tauopathy. This review is divided into two broad sections. In the first section we discuss the molecular classification of sporadic tauopathies, with a focus on describing clinicopathologic relationships. In the second section we discuss the neuroimaging methodologies that are available for measuring tau pathology (directly using tau positron emission tomography ligands) and tau-mediated neuronal injury (magnetic resonance imaging and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography). Both sections have detailed descriptions of the following neurodegenerative dementias – Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and Pick’s disease.
doi:10.1186/alzrt231
PMCID: PMC3978456  PMID: 24382028
22.  Protein quality control by Rer1p in the early secretory pathway: from mechanism to implication in Alzheimer’s disease 
γ-Secretase-mediated production of amyloid β from the amyloid precursor protein is recognized as a central player in the neuropathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). One of the most peculiar features of this enzymatic activity is the fact that it targets transmembrane domains of mostly type I integral membrane proteins and thus manages to proteolyse peptide bonds within the hydrophobic lipid bilayers. In addition, γ-secretase does not exert its activity solely towards amyloid precursor protein, but to an increasing number of membrane proteins, including Notch, cadherins, syndecans, and so on. Because of the requirement of intramembrane proteolysis for a plethora of signaling pathways and cellular processes during embryonic development and organ physiology, this enzyme has drawn a lot of attention in the past 20 years. γ-Secretase is a multimeric transmembrane complex consisting of the catalytic presenilin, nicastrin, presenilin enhancer 2 (PEN2) and anterior-pharynx defective-1 (APH1) subunits. Proper assembly into functional complexes requires quality control mechanisms associated with the early biosynthetic compartments and allows mature complexes to transit to distal compartments where its activity is required. We previously identified Retrieval to ER protein 1 (Rer1p) as the first negative regulator of the stepwise assembly of γ-secretase during endoplasmic reticulum-to-Golgi transport. We review here the state of the art on how Rer1p regulates complex assembly, particularly γ-secretase, and evaluate the therapeutic potential of such regulatory processes in the context of AD.
doi:10.1186/alzrt227
PMCID: PMC3978424  PMID: 24314151
23.  Amyloid β-protein oligomers and Alzheimer’s disease 
The oligomer cascade hypothesis, which states that oligomers are the initiating pathologic agents in Alzheimer’s disease, has all but supplanted the amyloid cascade hypothesis, which suggested that fibers were the key etiologic agents in Alzheimer’s disease. We review here the results of in vivo, in vitro and in silico studies of amyloid β-protein oligomers, and discuss important caveats that should be considered in the evaluation of these results. This article is divided into four sections that mirror the main approaches used in the field to better understand oligomers: (1) attempts to locate and examine oligomers in vivo in situ; that is, without removing these species from their environment; (2) studies involving oligomers extracted from human or animal tissues and the subsequent characterization of their properties ex vivo; (3) studies of oligomers that have been produced synthetically and studied using a reductionist approach in relatively simple in vitro biophysical systems; and (4) computational studies of oligomers in silico. These multiple orthogonal approaches have revealed much about the molecular and cell biology of amyloid β-protein. However, as informative as these approaches have been, the amyloid β-protein oligomer system remains enigmatic.
doi:10.1186/alzrt226
PMCID: PMC3978746  PMID: 24289820
24.  Promising developments in neuropsychological approaches for the detection of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease: a selective review 
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.
doi:10.1186/alzrt222
PMCID: PMC3978443  PMID: 24257331
25.  Treating Alzheimer’s disease with monoclonal antibodies: current status and outlook for the future 
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.
doi:10.1186/alzrt220
PMCID: PMC3978826  PMID: 24216217

Results 1-25 (118)