Following on from yesterday’s blog post about Lilly’s florebetapir,  a recent paper published in PLoS One (open access) describes how Aß40 Oligomers have potential as a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), prior to the development of amyloid plaque.

Thanks to BayBio for giving me the idea for this post when they mentioned it in their news about member & partner, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics in Emeryville, CA.

Alzheimer’s disease is an important target therapeutic area for the biotechnology industry.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight people aged 65 and older in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease (5.1 million). By 2030, the prevalence will have increased by approximately 50%, when an estimated 7.7 million will have the disease.

Neurodegenerative diseases place a large burden on the healthcare system and caregivers. There is a major unmet need for effective treatments that will either delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or slow down the rate of disease progression.

In their paper, Gao et al describe how using the knowledge that soluble Aß oligomers play an important role in the pathogenesis of AD, they were able to use a Misfolded Protein Assay (MPA) to capture Aß in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of AD patients.  Their results suggest that Aß40 oligomers are a novel biomarker for the early diagnosis of AD.

What I found interesting is that Aß40 oligomers were found in late-stage AD patients with low clinical Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores as well as those with early stage AD and higher MMSE scores. (p<0.01 between normal and all AD groups).

These results based on data from 26 patients clinically diagnosed with AD need to be viewed with caution since they are very early stage, but there is sufficient promise for future clinical trials.  A CSF test based on Aß40 oligomers could potentially pick up early-stage AD disease before it has progressed to the point where a clinically significant level of amyloid beta plaque (evidencing neuronal loss) appears in the brain.

Novel biomarkers could play an important role in drug development by biotechnology companies, allowing disease progression to be monitored.  It will be interesting to see whether this research on Aß40 oligomers from Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, ends up being confirmed as a valid biomarker.

 Aß40 Oligomers are a potential biomarker for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before amyloid plaque develops

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