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2019 Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases Grant (BAND)

Blood Biomarkers for Discriminating Amongst Neurodegenerative Diseases

Can a method of analyzing blood samples help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders?

Sid O'Bryant, Ph.D.
University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth
Fort Worth, TX - United States


Researchers are working towards creating advanced biological markers (or biomarkers) to detect and diagnose brain diseases. While currently available biomarkers from cerebrospinal fluid called “CSF” (biological fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord) as well as brain scans are plausible ways to detect many brain diseases, these methods are expensive and invasive.
In recent years, investigators have explored lower cost and less invasive ways of measuring biomarkers in living people. Dr. Sid O’Bryant and colleagues have studied blood samples of individuals with Down Syndrome who also have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease or other dementias.  The researchers have found that, among these  individuals, the blood-based biomarker approach could distinguish between these different diseases as well as identify specific subtypes within each disease. For instance, Dr. O’Bryant also identified a subset of people with Alzheimer’s who have a greater inclination to develop brain inflammation (called proinflammatory). The researchers found that this proinflammatory subgroup seemed to benefit more from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) treatment than did others with Alzheimer’s. Taken together, based on these findings Dr. O’Bryant believes that blood biomarker method may be a useful, precise tool in diagnosing and treating multiple dementias.        

Research Plan

Dr. O’Bryant and colleagues now plan to expand on their earlier work. Using blood samples and neurological data from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, the researchers will look for blood biomarkers that can identify and distinguish between Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain disorders in the larger population. Dr. O’Bryant and his team will characterize in more detail the proinflammatory subgroup of individuals with Alzheimer’s. The researchers will then expand these studies to examine the relationships in Parkinson’s disease and other dementias and determine if the NSAID treatment may be beneficial for these individuals as well. Furthermore, Dr. O’Bryant will investigate if other subgroups may exist in these various diseases, in addition to the proinflammatory group.


If successful, this project could identify blood biomarker analysis as a first step to more accurately diagnose specific brain disorders. Greater diagnostic accuracy could, in turn, lead to more closely-targeted disease therapies.

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