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Peripheral Biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease


Currently available diagnostic tests have moved the field closer to early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD); however, a definitive diagnosis is made only with the development of clinical dementia and the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles at autopsy. An ideal antemortem AD biomarker should satisfy the following criteria: the ability to diagnose AD with high sensitivity and specificity as confirmed by the gold standard of autopsy validation; the ability to detect early-stage disease and track the progression of AD; and monitor therapeutic efficacy. AD biomarker technologies currently under development include in vivo brain imaging with PET and MRI (i.e., imaging of amyloid plaques, biochemical assays in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and peripheral tissues. CSF biomarkers have received increased attention in the past decade. However, it is unclear whether these biomarkers are capable of early diagnosis of AD, prior to Aβ accumulation, or whether they can differentiate between AD and non-AD dementias. In addition, CSF biomarkers may not lend themselves to diagnostic screening of elderly patients, given the invasiveness of lumbar puncture, inter-laboratory variability in techniques and sample handling, and the circadian fluctuation of CSF components. Although commonly viewed as an abnormality of the brain, AD is a systemic disease with associated dysfunction in metabolic, oxidative, inflammatory, and biochemical pathways in peripheral tissues, such as the skin and blood cells. This has led researchers to investigate and develop assays of peripheral AD biomarkers (a few with high sensitivity and specificity) that require minimally invasive skin or blood samples.