A Review of Fluid Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease: Moving from CSF to Blood

Kaj Blennow
Neurology and Therapy 2017, 6 (Suppl 1): 15-24
A set of core cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease (AD) includes total tau (T-tau), phosphorylated tau (P-tau) and β-amyloid 42 (Aβ42). These biomarkers reflect some of the key aspects of AD pathophysiology, including neuronal degeneration, tau phosphorylation with tangle formation, and Aβ aggregation with deposition of the peptide into plaques. The core AD CSF biomarkers have been validated clinically in numerous studies, and found to have a very high diagnostic performance to identify AD, both in the dementia and in the mild cognitive impairment stages of the disease. CSF Aβ42 has also been found to show very high concordance with amyloid PET to identify brain amyloid deposition. The synaptic protein neurogranin is a novel candidate CSF biomarker for AD and prodromal AD. High CSF neurogranin predicts future cognitive decline and seems to be more specific for AD than, for example, T-tau. Importantly, technical developments have given ultrasensitive measurement techniques that allow measurement of brain-specific proteins such as tau and neurofilament light (NFL) in blood samples. Both plasma tau and NFL are increased in AD, and a recent study showed that plasma NFL has a diagnostic performance comparable to the core AD CSF biomarkers, and predicted future cognitive decline. Future large longitudinal clinical studies are warranted to determine the potential for plasma tau and NFL to serve as first-in-line screening tools for neurodegeneration in primary care.

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