Alzheimer's disease biomarkers

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The Alzheimer's disease biomarkers are neurochemical indicators used to assess the risk or presence of the disease. The biomarkers can be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a very early stage, but they also provide objective and reliable measures of disease progress. It is imperative to diagnose AD disease as soon as possible, because neuropathologic changes of AD precede the symptoms by years. It is well known that beta amyloid (Aβ) is a good indicator of AD disease, which has facilitated doctors to accurately pre-diagnose cases of AD disease. When Aβ peptide is released by proteolytic cleavage of amyloid precursor protein,[1] some Aβ peptides that are solubilized are detected in CSF and blood plasma which makes AB peptides a promising candidate for biological markers. It has been shown that the beta-amyloid biomarker shows 80% or above sensitivity and specificity, in distinguishing AD from dementia. It is believed that beta-amyloid as a biomarker will provide a future for diagnosis of AD and eventually treatment of AD, which is the hope of many elderly people.[2]

Amyloid beta[edit]

Aβ is composed of a family of peptides produced by proteolytic cleavage of the type I transmembrane spanning glycoprotein amyloid precursor protein (APP). Senile plaque Aβ protein species ends in residue 40 or 42,[3] but it is suspected that Aβ42 form is crucial in the pathogenesis of AD. Although Aβ42 makes up less than 10% of total Aβ, it aggregates at much faster rates than Aβ40.[4] Aβ42 is the initial and major component of senile plaque deposits. While the most prevalent hypothesis for mechanisms of Aβ-mediated "neurotoxicity" is structural damage to the synapse, various mechanisms such as oxidative stress,[5] altered calcium homeostasis, induction of apoptosis, structural damage, chronic inflammation and neuronal formation of amyloid has been proposed. Observation of AB42/AB40 ratio has been a promising biomarker for AD. However, as AB42 fails to be a reliable biomarker in plasma, attention was drawn for alternative biomarkers.[6]

Current biomarkers[edit]


Various enzymatic digestion including β- and γ- secretase will cleave amyloid precursor protein (APP) into various types of amyloid β protein. Most β-secretase activity originates from an integral membrane aspartyle protease encoded by the β-site APP-cleaving enzyme 1 gene (BACE1). According to research led by Dr. Zetterberg, he used a sensitive and specific BACE1 assay to assess CSF BACE1 activity in AD. As a result, increased BACE1 expression and enzymatic activity has been detected in subjects with AD. It was concluded that elevated BACE 1 activity may contribute to the amyloidgenic process in Alzheimer's disease. CSF BACE1 activity can be a potential candidate biomarker to monitor amyloidogenic APP metabolism in the CNS.[7]

Soluble Aβ precursor protein (sAPP)[edit]

APP is an integral membrane protein whose proteolysis generates beta amyloid ranging from 39- to 42- amino acid peptide. Although biological function of APP are not known, it is predicted that APP may play a role during neuroregeneration, and regulation of neural activity, connectivity, plasticity, and memory. Recent researches have shown that large soluble APP (sAPP)[8] that are present in CSF may serve as a novel potential biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease. In a report posted in nature, a group led by Lewczuk performed a test to observe performance of a soluble form of APP α and β. Significant increase in sAPP α and sAPP β were evident in patients with Alzheimer's disease, compared to normal subjects. However, the CSF level of α-sAPP and β-sAPP has a contradictory result. Although many researches have revealed that the CSF level of α sAPP increases in AD patients, some report that there is no significant change, and Lannfelt argues that there is a slight decrease. Therefore, more studies need to be performed to confirm the validity of sAPP as a biological marker for AD.


Researchers [9] at Indiana University found that titres of anti-beta-amyloid antibodies in cerebral spinal fluid was lower in AD patients compared to normal patients.

Novel approach[edit]

Recent studies primarily focus on use of an autoantibody, not only for biological markers but for future treatment. However, there are various arguments whether an autoantibody method provides a reliable biomarker. A number of reports show that patients with AD have lower levels of serum anti-AB antibodies than healthy individuals, and others have argued that the level of anti-AB antibody may be higher in AD. In order to avoid provide solution for discrepancy in the existing data, Dr. Gustaw came up with novel method of dissociation sample.[10]


In biological fluids, antibodies and antigens are in a state of dynamic equilibrium between bound and unbound forms that is concentration-dependent. As antigen masks the antibody, it obstructs accurate measurement of antibody-antigen detection. Dr. Gustow discovered a novel way to enhance antibody-antigen detection. Using a dissociation buffer (1.5% bovine serume albumin (BSA) and 0.2M glycine HCl pH2/5), he dissociated antigen-antibody complexes. As shown in the figure below, in dissociated samples, unbound antigen-antibody complexes reveal increased disease state compared to non-diseased state.


  • Prepare dissociation buffer: 1.4% bovine serum albumin + 0.2M glycine-HCL, pH2.5
  • Incubate AB42 for 20 minutes
  • Dissolve AB42 in 500 uL dissociation buffer in Microcon centrifugal device
  • Incubate at 23 °C (73 °F) for 20 minutes
  • Centrifuge for 20 minutes at 16,000 G at 23 °C (73 °F)
  • Invert filter and spin for 3 minutes at 2000 G
  • Bring the sample back to a neutral pH with 15-2uL 2.5M Tris pH9
  • Add ELISA buffer (1.5% BSA and 0.05% Tween 20 in phosphate buffered saline)
  • Perform ELISA analysis.


The white block represents non-dissociation data. The black block represents dissociation data. As the ELISA result shows, the detection of antibody is blocked by addition of beta-amyloid when the experiment was performed without dissociation. Following dissociation, the level of antibody detected increased to a level nearly control to level of control.

He used the same methodology in vivo to examine sera collected from AD patients. The results, surprisingly, demonstrated a significant increase in antibody titer. It contradicts the majority of studies arguing that the amyloid-beta antibody decreases in AD patients. The non-dissociated sample follows the widespread theory that amyloid-beta decreases in AD patients. However, he had already proven that a non-dissociated sample fails to bring out a valid result. The dissociated sample results show significant increases in AD patients, which contradicts the majority of previous studies.


Currently, there are many biomarkers for diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. However, most of them do not provide consistent data results. The novel approach (autoantibody) not only explained the discrepancy of results in previous studies of autoantibody, but provided a new standard as a biomarker of Alzheimer's disease. Compared to other biomarkers which have variable measurements on diagnosis of AD, the new autoantibody approach accurately measures Aβ level with high sensitivity, and proved itself to be an excellent biomarker for Alzheimer's disease. It is believed that the new technology will provide not only future early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease but also possible therapy for Alzheimer's disease. An open international study group ( has been constituted for arranging scientific information and developing a rational guide for implementing biomarkers into routine practice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palop, Jorge J; Mucke, Lennart (2010). "Amyloid-β–induced neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease: From synapses toward neural networks". Nature Neuroscience. 13 (7): 812–8. doi:10.1038/nn.2583. PMC 3072750Freely accessible. PMID 20581818. 
  2. ^ Bateman, RJ; Munsell, LY; Morris, JC; Swarm, R; Yarasheski, KE; Holtzman, DM (2006). "Human amyloid-beta synthesis and clearance rates as measured in cerebrospinal fluid in vivo". Nature Medicine. 12 (7): 856–61. doi:10.1038/nm1438. PMC 2983090Freely accessible. PMID 16799555. 
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  4. ^ Hampel, Harald; Shen, Yong; Walsh, Dominic M.; Aisen, Paul; Shaw, Les M.; Zetterberg, Henrik; Trojanowski, John Q.; Blennow, Kaj (2010). "Biological markers of amyloid β-related mechanisms in Alzheimer's disease". Experimental Neurology. 223 (2): 334–46. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.09.024. PMC 2896007Freely accessible. PMID 19815015. 
  5. ^ Tew, Deborah J.; Bottomley, Stephen P.; Smith, David P.; Ciccotosto, Giuseppe D.; Babon, Jeffrey; Hinds, Mark G.; Masters, Colin L.; Cappai, Roberto; Barnham, Kevin J. (2008). "Stabilization of Neurotoxic Soluble β-Sheet-Rich Conformations of the Alzheimer's Disease Amyloid-β Peptide". Biophysical Journal. 94 (7): 2752–66. doi:10.1529/biophysj.107.119909. PMC 2267149Freely accessible. PMID 18065467. 
  6. ^ Rival, T; Page, RM; Chandraratna, DS; Sendall, TJ; Ryder, E; Liu, B; Lewis, H; Rosahl, T; et al. (2009). "Fenton chemistry and oxidative stress mediate the toxicity of the β-amyloid peptide in a Drosophila model of Alzheimer's disease". The European Journal of Neuroscience. 29 (7): 1335–47. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06701.x. PMC 2777252Freely accessible. PMID 19519625. 
  7. ^ Zetterberg, H; Andreasson, U; Hansson, O; Wu, G; Sankaranarayanan, S; Andersson, ME; Buchhave, P; Londos, E; et al. (2008). "Elevated cerebrospinal fluid BACE1 activity in incipient Alzheimer disease". Archives of Neurology. 65 (8): 1102–7. doi:10.1001/archneur.65.8.1102. PMID 18695061. 
  8. ^ Seubert, P; Vigo-Pelfrey, C; Esch, F; Lee, M; Dovey, H; Davis, D; Sinha, S; Schlossmacher, M; et al. (1992). "Isolation and quantification of soluble Alzheimer's beta-peptide from biological fluids". Nature. 359 (6393): 325–7. doi:10.1038/359325a0. PMID 1406936. 
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  10. ^ Gustaw, KA; Garrett, MR; Lee, HG; Castellani, RJ; Zagorski, MG; Prakasam, A; Siedlak, SL; Zhu, X; et al. (2008). "Antigen-antibody dissociation in Alzheimer disease: A novel approach to diagnosis". Journal of Neurochemistry. 106 (3): 1350–6. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05477.x. PMC 2575068Freely accessible. PMID 18485104.