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2016 Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases Grant (BAND)

Neural-Derived Blood Exosome Protein Biomarkers in Alzheimer's Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia

Can a novel method for measuring brain-derived factors in the blood improve the detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia?

Edward J. Goetzl, M.D.
Hebrew Home for the Aged Disabled
San Francisco, CA - United States


Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia are related but distinct diseases, and they are part of a larger group of conditions known as neurodegenerative diseases. Ideally, individuals with neurodegenerative diseases would be diagnosed before the onset of clinical symptoms so that future treatments could be administered before significant brain cell damage has occurred. Thus there is a need to develop new diagnostic methods for detecting Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia in the earliest stages.

Dr. Edward J. Goetzl, M.D., and colleagues are investigating better ways of detecting and differentiating neurodegenerative diseases by examining particles in the blood known as neural-derived exosomes. Neural-derived exosomes are tiny fluid-filled spheres that are released from nerve cells into the blood. By studying neural-derived exosomes, the researchers can get information about diseases in the brain by using a very simple and routine blood draw without having to collect tissue from the brain itself.

Research Plan

Dr. Goetzl’s team performed a pioneering study that showed that people with Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia have different levels and profiles of certain proteins in their neural-derived exosomes than healthy people. Furthermore, the researchers demonstrated that these differences can be observed as much as ten years before the clinical diagnosis of disease.

The researchers will now extend this study by determining how changes in neural-derived exosomes relate to changes in brain imaging and other biomarkers known to be related to disease development and progression. They will also examine how neural-derived exosomes change as the disease progresses over time in people with Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia.


This work will determine how changes in neural-derived exosomes relate to the risk, onset and severity of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. It may also lay the foundation for the development of new and simple tests for the early detection and diagnosis of these diseases.

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