University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

A Comprehensive Biomedical Model for Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease

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This project focuses on the development of a comprehensive biomedical model for the purpose of early detection of dementia. Recent studies suggest that cellular brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may begin long before symptoms of AD appear. In addition, the results of early detection studies indicate that persons with the apolipoprotein epsilon 4 (APOE-4) genetic risk for AD demonstrate decline in brain metabolism that predate symptoms of cognitive decline and dementia, while person’s without APOE-4 do not demonstrate such physiological changes (Small, et al., 2000).

The prediction of cognitive decline and dementia using existing models, however, is imperfect. There remains a need to develop a more comprehensive model that combines multiple methods to better predict an individual’s risk for future cognitive decline associated with AD. We propose to develop a comprehensive biomedical model that combines information from various brain imaging techniques (Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Positron Emission Tomography), genetics (APOE-4), demographics and cognitive assessment to formulate a more sensitive indicator of the earliest phases of AD. The impact of such an early detection model would be improved ability to: identify candidates for early detection intervention, or treatments that could enhance the quality of life; slow the course of cognitive deterioration; and postpone the onset of AD. In addition, we will explore the efficacy of a new brain imaging technique, Amyloid-Positron Emission Tomography, in its ability to identify persons at risk for AD.