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2016 Grants - Koenig
Neuroimaging, Amyloid and Cognitive Function in Down Syndrome
Katherine A. Koenig, Ph.D.
Cleveland Clinic Foundation
2016 New Investigator Research Grant
Can a multi-pronged assessment of cognition, brain structure and beta-amyloid levels better clarify how people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease?
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. Detecting and diagnosing the early clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome is challenging due to variable levels of intellectual disability.
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 individuals with Down syndrome who are at high risk for developing dementia.
Katherine A. Koenig, Ph.D., and her team have proposed a series of studies to examine how different biomarkers may relate to each other, and to determine which biomarkers may be most effective at predicting the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down syndrome. For their current grant, the researchers will conduct a small clinical study of 16 young adults who have Down syndrome but no dementia. They will examine the participants’ cognitive ability, brain structure and beta-amyloid levels in the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord). They will then determine how these factors associate with one another to identify which biomarkers, or combination of biomarkers, may best indicate the risk of Alzheimer’s before the onset of clinical symptoms.
The results of Dr. Koenig’s study could refine our understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease develops in individuals with Down syndrome. They could also lead to novel diagnostic procedures that identify Alzheimer’s at an earlier stage allowing future treatments to be administered before disease-related brain changes and clinical symptoms occur.