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Alzheimer-related altered white matter microstructural integrity in Down syndrome: A model for sporadic AD?

H Diana Rosas, Eugene Hsu, Nathaniel D Mercaldo, Florence Lai, Margaret Pulsifer, David Keator, Adam M Brickman, Julie Price, Michael Yassa, Christy Hom, Sharon J Krinsky-McHale, Wayne Silverman, Ira Lott, Nicole Schupf
Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring 2020, 12 (1): e12040

Introduction: Virtually all adults with Down syndrome (DS) develop Alzheimer's disease (AD)-associated neuropathology by the age of 40, with risk for dementia increasing from the early 50s. White matter (WM) pathology has been reported in sporadic AD, including early demyelination, microglial activation, loss of oligodendrocytes and reactive astrocytes but has not been extensively studied in the at-risk DS population.

Methods: Fifty-six adults with DS (35 cognitively stable adults, 11 with mild cognitive impairment, 10 with dementia) underwent diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), amyloid imaging, and had assessments of cognition and functional abilities using tasks appropriate for persons with intellectual disability.

Results: Early changes in late-myelinating and relative sparing of early-myelinating pathways, consistent with the retrogenesis model proposed for sporadic AD, were associated with AD-related cognitive deficits and with regional amyloid deposition.

Discussion: Our findings suggest that quantification of WM changes in DS could provide a promising and clinically relevant biomarker for AD clinical onset and progression.

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