November 15, 2023

Blood-Based Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease in Women (Podcast)

Research project aims to pinpoint biomarkers that could speed diagnosis

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Nearly two-thirds of people living with Alzheimer’s disease are women — a disproportionate share that suggests a need to identify sex-specific biomarkers to aid in early detection and diagnosis.

With support from the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, Lynn Bekris, PhD, a researcher in the Genomic Medicine Institute within Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, is investigating blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease specifically in women.

“We’re going to take a group of Alzheimer’s patients ― and also people of a similar age with normal cognition ― and measure a large panel of proteins in plasma,” explains Dr. Bekris. “We’re going to measure over 7,000 proteins and then try to tease apart which ones are specific to the Alzheimer’s disease-related biomarkers amyloid and tau.”

In the latest episode of Cleveland Clinic’s NeuroPathways podcast, Dr. Bekris shares details about the research project and how it could improve clinical care for women with Alzheimer’s disease. She provides:

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  • An overview of validated biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Background on a pilot study on immune factor signatures that led to her research project
  • Perspective on the advantages of focusing on blood-based biomarkers
  • Information on specific proteins her team is studying, including TREM2
  • Insight on the project’s potential implications for clinical care and future research

Click the podcast player above to listen to the 23-minute episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Neuro Pathways episodes at clevelandclinic.org/neuropodcast or wherever you get your podcasts. This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ and ANCC contact hours. After listening to the podcast, you can claim your credit here.

Excerpt from the podcast

Podcast host Glen Stevens, DO, PhD: Is there anything you’ve found so far that’s been particularly surprising or notable?

Dr. Bekris: I would say the differences we saw in signatures between men and women. We were surprised that they are so, so different. We are seeing that in women who are amyloid-positive but tau-negative, there is an uncoupling with soluble TREM2. So, the broader immune response is not associated with the soluble TREM2 response in women at that stage. Whereas in men, it’s associated with an uncoupling of soluble TREM2, so a lack of relationship with the broader immune response in that early amyloid-positive stage but also in the amyloid-positive, tau-positive stage ― the tau and amyloid stage.

So, it looks like in men there is a very distinct signature that might be more pronounced for a longer period of time, whereas in women it is very distinct in that amyloid-only group. We were surprised to see such a distinct signature.

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Dr. Stevens: And my understanding is that women, on average, have a little more rapid decline than men. Is that correct?

Dr. Bekris: Yes. And there is some complexity there in how long women have the disease. For women, there’s a very strong association with age and Alzheimer’s, and women can live longer than men. So it’s still complicated. But yes, once women are diagnosed, there can be a much more rapid decline.

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