News Brief

PHILADELPHIA — Efforts to develop a blood test for Alzheimer's disease are progressing, as a new study co-authored by experts from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) found a group of biomarkers that hold up in statistical analyses in three independent groups of patients. The study, a unique collaborative effort between researchers at Penn, Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta and Washington University in St. Louis as well as the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), was just published online in Neurology.

Previous efforts to develop better and more clinically useful Alzheimer's diagnostic tests, including research from Penn, have focused on spinal fluid biomarkers and radiologic tests like MRIs and PET scans. These newer tests can detect various levels of proteins implicated in the Alzheimer's disease process, such as amyloid-beta and tau proteins.

In this study, researchers found that the levels or amounts of four different biomarkers detected in blood plasma were different in people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's, when compared to healthy controls. These protein biomarkers included: apolipoprotein E, B-type natriuretic peptide, C-reactive protein and pancreatic polypeptide.

This study is part of ADNI as well as independent studies conducted separately at Penn and Washington University. Investigators from  Penn, Washington University and ADNI pooled and compared data sets to increase the analytical power of this study.

Future research will seek to validate this large multi-center study to determine how informative these biomarkers may be in research settings and clinical practice, develop standard protocols for their use in research and clinical settings, and ensure that a blood test for Alzheimer's based on these new findings delivers accurate results consistently.

The study's lead author, William Hu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, began this research when he was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The research team from Penn included Leslie M. Shaw, PhD, Steven E. Arnold, MD, Murray Grossman, MD, PhD, Christopher M. Clark, MD, Vivianna M. Van Deerlin, PhD, Leo McCluskey, MD, Lauren Elman, MD, Jason Karlawish, MD, Alice Chen-Plotkin, MD, PhD, Howard I. Hurtig, MD, Andrew Siderowf, MD,  Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, and John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD.

For more information on the study, please see the Emory University School of Medicine news release.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $496 million awarded in the 2020 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 44,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2020, Penn Medicine provided more than $563 million to benefit our community.

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