Blood-based biomarkers for early detection of preclinical neurocognitive disorders

With more people now living longer lives, dementia is becoming an increasingly important problem in society. One of the biggest challenges in designing studies of potential new treatments for dementia, is accurately predicting which people are most likely to develop dementia in the future, prior to them showing signs of the disease. Often by the time a person shows signs of dementia, irreversible brain injury has already occurred and the opportunity for prevention or early treatment has been missed. If we could identify people at high risk of developing dementia at an early stage, i.e. before memory problems start, we would have the greatest opportunity to prevent this disease. One potential strategy to identify early-stage disease is measuring proteins in the blood (biomarkers) which may appear before people develop memory problems.

In a series of research studies, I will investigate promising proteins in the blood to identify people with early (preclinical) dementia. I will investigate: a) whether these biomarkers are different in people with and without features of early dementia on specialised brain scans, and b) whether these biomarkers can predict who will develop dementia in the future using the international PURE study of over 180,000 people from 21 countries. I will use these study findings to develop a risk score which can be used to calculate a person’s likelihood of developing dementia in the future, based on both biomarkers (blood test through a GP) and clinical factors (e.g. blood pressure).

The results of this research are expected to have important public health benefits including:

  1. development of a risk score for dementia to quickly identify which people are at ‘high-risk’ of developing dementia and need referral for further testing, and
  2. improving our ability to find new treatments for dementia, by allowing better selection of individuals for research studies.
Award Date
26 June 2020
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Emer O'Donnell
Host Institution
National University of Ireland, Galway
CSF 2020