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2014 Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases Grant (BAND)

Cortical and functional distinctions in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease

Swati Rane, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, TN - United States

Recent evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have some biological and genetic features in common. Individuals, particularly in the later stages of these diseases, may exhibit symptoms of both conditions. Furthermore, brain imaging in people with either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s can show an overlap of brain changes observed in the other disease.

One of the established risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, a genetic variation of the apolipoprotein E gene known as (APOE-ɛ4), has also been implicated as a potential risk factor in some cases of Parkinson’s, although its role is not as well established as in Alzheimer’s. In addition, one of the features of Parkinson’s disease, abnormal clumps of a protein known as alpha-synuclein, have also been observed in brain tissue of some people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Swati Rane, Ph.D., and colleagues have proposed a series of studies intended to identify ways to accurately and reliably distinguish Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The researchers plan to analyze existing information contained in two large databases of people who had either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Rane and colleagues will use advanced computer programs to analyze brain images. They will examine how changes in brain structure in people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s relate to the presence of the APOE-ɛ4 gene or to levels of alpha-synuclein in the fluid that surrounds nerve cells in the brain. These studies may help scientists understand differences, and possible similarities, in the mechanisms of the two diseases and help improve diagnosis and treatment.

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