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Research Grants 2015

To view an abstract, select an author from the vertical list on the left.

2015 Grants - Sabbagh

Longitudinal Circulating RNA Biomarker Profiling in Down Syndrome

Marwan Noel Sabbagh, M.D.
Banner Sun Health Research Institute
Sun City, Arizona

2015 Understanding the Development and Devising Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease in Individuals with Down Syndrome Grant

Can a new non-invasive blood test using RNA biomarkers help detect who is at the greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease?

There is strong interest in developing non-invasive ways to accurately detect who may be at the greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. This would allow for any future preventative treatments to be administered before irreversible brain damage and clinical symptoms occur. People with Down syndrome have a high risk for developing Alzheimer’s. By age 40, the majority of people with Down syndrome have a build-up of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains, the two main hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. A better understanding of the biological changes related to Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome is needed. In turn, these changes could be measured by biomarkers, which are factors that accurately and reliably indicate the risk or presence of a disease. Alzheimer’s biomarkers could help identify all people, both those with and without Down syndrome, who are at the highest risk for developing the disease.

Research Plan
Marwan Noel Sabbagh, M.D., and colleagues have been working to develop a new way to assess the risk for Alzheimer’s using a single drop of blood – similar to the way a person with diabetes checks their blood sugar. Using advanced genetic analyses they can examine the blood sample for changes in molecules called ribonucleic acid (RNA). RNA is genetic material that is important for the normal function of all cells and the research team hypothesizes that changes in RNA may reflect the biological changes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

For their current studies, the research team will examine changes in RNA in blood samples from people who have Down syndrome with and without Alzheimer’s disease. They will collect blood samples every month for three years and determine how changes in RNA molecules are connected to changes in brain structure and cognitive function. The changes present only in people who develop dementia will be identified as RNA biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. If this study successfully finds RNA biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome, similar methods will be applied to detect RNA biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in people without Down syndrome.

The identification of RNA biomarkers for Alzheimer’s could lead to the future development of non-invasive blood tests to asses an individual’s risk of developing the disease. Early detection of Alzheimer’s risk will be essential in identifying who should be treated with preventive therapies when they become available. This work may also identify new genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and potentially reveal novel targets for drug treatments.

Co-funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, Global Down Syndrome Foundation and Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome

Alzheimer's Association International Conference | July 16-20, 2017, London, England

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