Blood Protein Could Be a Biomarker for Alzheimer's

A discovery by researchers at Tel Aviv University, Technion (Rambam Medical Center), and Harvard University advance the screening and diagnosing Alzheimer's disease (AD). A new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, proposes a new biomarker for cognitive aging and AD: activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP). Levels of ADNP can be easily examined in routine blood tests. The study also found that ADNP levels tested in the blood correlate with higher IQ in healthy older adults.

The research was led by Professor Illana Gozes, the incumbent of the Lily and Avraham Gildor Chair for the Investigation of Growth Factors and former director of the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and a member of TAU's Sagol School of Neuroscience, conducted by TAU PhD student Anna Malishkevich and spearheaded by Dr. Gad Marshall, Dr. Aaron Schultz, and Prof. Reisa Sperling of Harvard University, and Prof. Judith Aharon-Peretz of Rambam Medical Center - The Technion Institute of Technology.

Significant increases in ADNP RNA levels were observed in patients ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to AD. ADNP levels tested in plasma and serum samples, as well as white blood cell RNA levels, differentiated between cognitively normal elderly, MCI, and AD participants.

The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from 42 healthy adults, MCI patients, and AD patients at Rambam Medical Center in Israel. After comparing the ADNP expression in the blood samples, the researchers prepared plasma samples and once again compared the protein levels. Professor Gozes determined that they could detect the biomarker in a routine blood test. Her plans are to take these groundwork findings into clinical trials, to hopefully create a pre-Alzheimer's test that will help shape potential preventative treatments and to clarify ADNP's ability to predict cognitive decline and disease progression.

This latest research builds on Professor Gozes' earlier exploration of neuronal plasticity and nerve cell protection at the molecular, cellular, and system level, and her discovery of unique protein families, including ADNP, associated with cross-communication among neural nerve cells and their support cells.