Alzheimer disease: new concepts on its neurobiology and the clinical role imaging will play.
ABSTRACT Alzheimer disease (AD) is one of, if not the most, feared diseases associated with aging. The prevalence of AD increases exponentially with age after 60 years. Increasing life expectancy coupled with the absence of any approved disease-modifying therapies at present position AD as a dominant public health problem. Major advances have occurred in the development of disease biomarkers for AD in the past 2 decades. At present, the most well-developed AD biomarkers are the cerebrospinal fluid analytes amyloid-β 42 and tau and the brain imaging measures amyloid positron emission tomography (PET), fluorodeoxyglucose PET, and magnetic resonance imaging. CSF and imaging biomarkers are incorporated into revised diagnostic guidelines for AD, which have recently been updated for the first time since their original formulation in 1984. Results of recent studies suggest the possibility of an ordered evolution of AD biomarker abnormalities that can be used to stage the typical 20-30-year course of the disease. When compared with biomarkers in other areas of medicine, however, the absence of standardized quantitative metrics for AD imaging biomarkers constitutes a major deficiency. Failure to move toward a standardized system of quantitative metrics has substantially limited potential diagnostic usefulness of imaging in AD. This presents an important opportunity that, if widely embraced, could greatly expand the application of imaging to improve clinical diagnosis and the quality and efficiency of clinical trials.
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ABSTRACT: Age is the strongest risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer disease (AD), yet the effects of age on rates of clinical decline and brain atrophy in AD have been largely unexplored. Here, we examined longitudinal rates of change as a function of baseline age for measures of clinical decline and structural MRI-based regional brain atrophy, in cohorts of AD, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and cognitively healthy (HC) individuals aged 65 to 90 years (total n = 723). The effect of age was modeled using mixed effects linear regression. There was pronounced reduction in rates of clinical decline and atrophy with age for AD and MCI individuals, whereas HCs showed increased rates of clinical decline and atrophy with age. This resulted in convergence in rates of change for HCs and patients with advancing age for several measures. Baseline cerebrospinal fluid densities of AD-relevant proteins, Aβ(1-42), tau, and phospho-tau(181p) (ptau), showed a similar pattern of convergence with advanced age across cohorts, particularly for ptau. In contrast, baseline clinical measures did not differ by age, indicating uniformity of clinical severity at baseline. These results imply that the phenotypic expression of AD is relatively mild in individuals older than approximately 85 years, and this may affect the ability to distinguish AD from normal aging in the very old. Our findings show that inclusion of older individuals in clinical trials will substantially reduce the power to detect disease-modifying therapeutic effects, leading to dramatic increases in required clinical trial sample sizes with age of study sample.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(8):e42325. · 4.09 Impact Factor