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2016 Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases Grant (BAND)

Biological networks and pathophysiology of AD and PD

Can a combined analysis of multiple disease characteristics improve the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease?

Sungeun Kim, Ph.D.
Indiana University (Indianapolis)
Indianapolis, IN - United States


Although Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are unique diseases, they can share some clinical symptoms and have overlapping molecular mechanisms. For example, some patients who have Alzheimer’s disease may experience Parkinson’s-like symptoms, and some patients with Parkinson’s may have amyloid plaques in the brain. Recent evidence also suggests that there may be some common genetic characteristics and shared risk factors across the two diseases.
Physicians are in need of better ways to diagnose both diseases in their early stages, and to distinguish them in individuals who have overlapping symptoms. Scientists around the world are working to discover and develop new ways of recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, often focusing on specific biomarkers of disease, such as molecules in the blood or findings on brain imaging. In addition to looking at these individual markers of disease, it may also be useful to identify patterns of change in broader biological pathways that indicate the risk or presence of these diseases.

Research Plan

Sungeun Kim, Ph.D., and colleagues have proposed a “network” approach to identifying the unique and shared biological pathways that may drive the disease process in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A network approach involves combining information from many sources, including genetic information, biomarkers in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (the specialized fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) and brain imaging. The researchers plan to perform a network analysis using information from two large sets of data from people who have Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. In addition to finding better ways to diagnose and distinguish the two diseases, Dr. Kim and colleagues also plan to identify ways of predicting which patients are most likely to experience rapid decline.


The analysis proposed by Dr. Kim’s team will provide insights into better ways to diagnose and distinguish the two diseases. Additionally, their studies will improve our understanding of the genetic and molecular mechanisms leading to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, which may help scientists identify novel ways to treat the diseases.

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