One “brainstorm” closer to identifying biomarkers sensitive to cognitive decline

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While the Centre for Dementia Prevention brings together knowledge and expertise from the fields of Clinical Trials, Basic Science and Social Science, the ethos of the centre is collaborative work and strong links between researchers across disciplines. To this end, the Centre for Dementia Prevention leads five Translational Research Groups – all focusing on key areas of dementia prevention, pulling together experience from scientists across various specialities who all work on a joint cause. We are thrilled to have held the first Biomarkers Translational Research Group (TRG) meeting today at the Roslin Institute.

The Biomarkers TRG is led by Alison Green and Tom Wishart and the role of the group is to facilitate the development and evaluation of biomarkers for the early detection and diagnosis of dementia. The Biomarker group aims to create an infrastructure that enables rapid and good quality collection of various biomarkers deemed valuable for research (e.g. cerebrospinal fluid) from routine clinical setting.

The central question for the Biomarkers group is identifying the target biomarkers that correlate with the underlying pathology for dementia. If the path for drug discovery is well developed and structured, why should biomarker identification, trial and testing be less established as the therapeutic outcome serves the same?

To be able to drive meaningful results for biomarker discovery, we need large sets of data. The Centre for Dementia Prevention is contributing to this work through our flagship studies, e.g. the EPAD study and the PREVENT Research Programme. Though the ideal setting would link research and a clinical setting – e.g. a Brain Health Clinic where researchers would approach all routine care patients to collect data in a clinical setting and thereby include a large, representative sample into furthering research.

The focus of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers has long been on certain proteins such as amyloid beta and tau. The CDP Biomarkers group, however, seeks to understand if there are a series of pathologies that contribute towards the development of dementia and how a change in biomarkers over time reflects on disease progression. As the oncology researchers in the Biomarkers group emphasise – it is difficult, but crucial to isolate these target biomarkers.

We are in a fantastic starting point of “brainstorming” ideas about how to identify biomarkers that detect early changes in the brain that lead to the development of dementia. Biomarker discovery would help identify people at risk of dementia at an earlier stage and subsequently allow early drug treatment and life-style changes to occur which may result in reducing the onset of dementia. We are privileged to include world leading expertise from animal models, oncology, biochemistry and other fields. We are hugely excited to meet again soon to take our discussion forward and instead of testing whether a specific biomarker is relevant to understanding the mechanism involved with degeneration, explore “which biomarkers are relevant to the early detection of disease, for prognosis and for monitoring therapeutic intervention”?