Alzheimer Disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. The Knight ADRC’s Memory and Aging Project (MAP) studies changes in memory, thinking, and biomarkers over many years.

The Fluid Biomarker Core collects, processes, analyzes and distributes fluid biomarker samples from these participants. Ongoing research focuses on changes over time in CSF measures of Aβ42, Aβ40, total tau protein and phosphorylated tau-181, neurofilament light chain, YKL-40, SNAP-25, neurogranin and VILIP-1. The lab also has a focus on blood-based AD biomarkers including plasma Aβ42/Aβ40, tau species and neurofilament light chain.

Current research is focused into two main projects:

  • Development and validation of new CSF biomarkers for disease diagnosis and prognosis
  • Development and validation of plasma biomarkers for clinical diagnosis and prognosis

The Fluid Biomarker Core has many ongoing projects and collaborations both within Washington University and outside the university, some of which are large program project grants where the FBMC acts as the biorepository or biomarker core.

Fluid biomarker faculty projects

Staging Alzheimer disease with blood-based biomarkers

PI: Suzanne Schindler, MD, PhD – Fluid Biomarker Core Leader

Suzanne Schindler was awarded an R01 from the National Institute on Aging to study the ability of blood-based biomarkers to accurately detect AD brain pathology. This project seeks to compare the capability of blood-based biomarkers to measure amyloid, tau and neurodegeneration with more established modalities – CSF biomarkers and imaging measures.

Washington University collaborations

Antecedent biomarkers for Alzheimer disease: The Adult Children Study (ACS)

PI: John Morris, MD

The Fluid Biomarker Core serves as the biorepository for samples collected under the ACS. The study of preclinical AD was the foundation of ACS funded and has been continuously funded since 2005. The ACS recruits cognitively normal, middle-aged adult children of individuals with and without AD for collection of biological markers of AD (fluid and imaging).  Studying individuals with a family history of AD longitudinally from middle age permitted study of the critical preclinical period prior to symptom onset.

Healthy aging and senile dementia (HASD)

PI – Dr. John Morris, MD

This program project award has been continuously funded since 1984. The over-arching goal of the HASD study is to determine the factors that signal the imminent development of symptomatic Alzheimer disease (AD) in cognitively normal older adults.

Cross sectional and longitudinal racial disparity in molecular biomarkers of Alzheimer disease

PI: Chengjie Xiong, PhD

The goal of this study is to examine the potential racial disparity in molecular biomarkers of AD, as well as in their predictability of subsequent cognitive outcomes which may imply differential treatment responses between races, and hence will have profound implications to the design and analyses of ongoing and future prevention and treatment trials of AD.

Quantitative endogenous MRI imaging of neuroinflammation in AD

PI: Qing Wang, PhD

The goal of this project is to develop and establish an advanced diffusion MRI technique that effectively addresses the need for safe, precise and cost-effective neuroinflammation imaging in AD.

Sleep and electroencephalography biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease

PI: Yo-EL Ju, MD

The goal of this study is to develop sleep and EEG (brain wave) biomarkers of early Alzheimer disease, to use for non-invasive screening, even prior to cognitive symptoms

Naturalistic driving as a functional neurobehavioral marker of preclinical and symptomatic Alzheimer disease

PIs: Ganesh Babulal, PhD, OTD and Catherine Roe, PhD

The goal of this project is to examine whether naturalistic driving can distinguish persons with and without preclinical AD among cognitively normal individuals and if driving behavior can improve prediction of incident cognitive impairment and dementia.

The impact of depression and preclinical Alzheimer disease on driving among older adults

PI: Ganesh Babulal, PhD, OTD

The goal of this project is to examine whether major depression and preclinical AD, combined, predict faster longitudinal change in driving behavior among older adults, and assess the impact of medications (antidepressants), major depression and preclinical AD on naturalistic driving.

Investigating the longitudinal relationship between alcohol use, neurophysiological functioning, and Alzheimer disease biomarkers in the collaborative study on the genetics of alcoholism

PI: Sarah Hartz, MD, PhD

The goal of this study to investigate the relationship between trajectories of alcohol use, longitudinal changes in brain function, and the development of Alzheimer disease (AD).

Collaborations outside of Washington University

Longitudinal early-onset Alzheimer’s disease study (LEADS)

PI: Liana Apostolova, MD, Indiana University

The LEADS study recruits participants with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD), occurring before age 65, in order to better understand changes in thinking abilities, changes in the brain, and changes in blood and spinal fluid, with the goal of using this information to design new treatment trials inclusive of this segment of the AD population.

LEADS study website

Alzheimer Biomarker Consortium – Down Syndrome (ABC-DS)

PIs: Ben Handed, PhD (University of Pittsburgh), Elizabeth Head, PhD (University of California – Irvine), Mark Mapstone, PhD (University of California – Irvine), Bradley Christian, PhD (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

The goal of ABC-DS is to follow a cohort of adults with Down syndrome over time to identify early biomarkers that may herald the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators hope that these biomarkers can be useful to inform clinical trials and improve the quality of life in people with Down syndrome and for the general population. The FBMC serves as the biorepository for CSF samples collected by the ABC-DS study.

ABC-DS study website

ARTFL LEFFTDS Longitudinal Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (ALLFTD)

PIs: Bradley Boeve, MD, PhD (Mayo Clinic – Rochester), Adam Boxer, MD, PhD (University of California – San Francisco), Howard Rosen, MD (University of California – San Francisco)

ALLFTD is a comprehensive study targeting most varieties of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). The overall goal of ALLFTD is to prepare for treatment trials in FTLD by building a cohort of FTLD patients at expert centers who can be available for treatment trials, identifying the best clinical measurements and biomarkers for following patients with FTLD in treatment trials, and Identifying clinical measurements and biomarkers that indicate when a person with a high risk of developing FTLD, as well as by sharing data, images, and samples from participants with other researchers to further our knowledge of FTLD.

ALLFTD study website