Brain imaging and cognitive tests may be the gold standards for tracking Alzheimer disease progression, but clinical trials using these procedures are expensive, risky, and time-consuming.

As a result, making the development of reliable go-betweens is a pressing goal for AD researchers.

The Alzheimer Research Forum reports on three recent papers that highlight new promise, and expose nagging pitfalls, of one of the field’s most widely used surrogate measures: cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers.

CSF samples offer researchers an indirect peek at signature molecules in AD and other neurodegenerative diseases without having to probe the brain itself.

In one study, scientists use a new method for quantifying protein turnover in the central nervous system to show that a candidate AD drug lowers CNS Aβ production in healthy people.

This approach has the potential to streamline drug development, by indicating early on if and to what extent experimental compounds reach their CNS target. More generally, biomarker analysis presents an ongoing challenge in that their measurement varies markedly in different assays, even among different labs using the same assays.

Researchers have tried to get a better handle on this problem, and the second study reported in this story finds sobering variability among 20 labs worldwide that measured Aβ42, tau, and phospho-tau in the same CSF samples.

Meanwhile, a third report describes a potential new AD biomarker in the form of reduced CSF levels of the sortilin-related receptor SORLA.

Source: Alzheimer Research Forum Foundation