The societal burden of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) looks set to increase with people living longer than ever before – the World Health Organisation estimating a double in the number of cases worldwide by 2030. The development of biomarkers for the disease, specifically peripheral biomarkers that can be tested for using less invasive procedures, has seen a revival of interest. Although there are currently no validated biomarkers for AD, it is hoped that further research will yield results that will both help early diagnosis and foster new targets for treatment.
The Peripheral Biomarkers special series, published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, tackles the current issues surrounding the search to identify blood biomarkers for AD and discusses biomarker approaches that have already produced data that may help to advance the field.
In this accompanying podcast, Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy In-house Editor Kathryn Smith talks to Series Editor Douglas Galasko about how attitudes towards biomarker studies have changed over the years, current exciting avenues of investigation and key questions in the field. Galasko also shares his thoughts on the future directions of biomarker research in AD.
Galasko is a neurologist at the University California, San Diego, USA, Director of the UCSD Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s disease Research Center and is also co-Editor-in-Chief of Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy. As Series Editor for the ‘Peripheral Biomarkers’ special series, Galasko brings together a collection of articles addressing a variety of topics, including; the potential of plasma amyloid beta (Aβ) as a biomarker, the use of biomarkers to evaluate the risk of incident AD, and novel approaches to biomarker discovery.
“In the 1980s we had a reasonable idea of the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and yet this was not being used at all to make the diagnosis. So I was interested in trying to see whether the key pathological features of Alzheimer’s, namely plaques and tangles, would be reflected in something we could measure as a biomarker.”
Douglas Galasko, University of California, San Diego
Highlights of the series include a review by John Trojanowski and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, USA on plasma measures of Aβ, summarising a wealth of data on Aβ as a diagnostic and a predictive biomarker, as well as addressing the demographic, clinical, genetic and technical issues surrounding Aβ levels and measurement
In addition to covering the benefits and drawbacks of individual biomarkers, the series also takes a look at multiplex biomarkers in a review by Ralph Martins from Edith Cowan University, Australia and colleagues. The challenges faced by researchers in developing a global multiplex panel of biomarkers for AD are summarised and moreover potential solutions are outlined with the aim of advancing the field by reducing variability across studies.
Efforts to make progress in biomarker discovery have also led to studies into the body’s response to abnormal pathological proteins. Thomas Kodadek and Lorraine Fuhrmann Clark from the Scripps Research Institute, USA discuss key questions around the identification and screening of autoantibodies produced in response to various pathological features of AD.
Upcoming series content includes a review by Sudha Seshadri and Galit Weinstein from Boston University, USA discussing the candidates for potential use as circulating biomarkers that predict incident AD.
“There is great interest in biomarkers in general, and there have been many demonstrations of their value in approaches to diagnosis and therapy,” remarked Galasko in regards to the importance of peripheral biomarkers in AD. More on these advances and current issues faced in peripheral biomarker research for AD can be found in the ‘Peripheral Biomarkers’ special series.
The complete list of series articles: