Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which affects over 50 million people worldwide, involves the dysfunction and loss of brain cells. Its symptoms include progressive memory loss, impaired movement, reasoning, and judgment. While patients often only seek medical attention and are diagnosed when they have memory problems, AD affects the brain at least 10-20 years before symptoms appear. Traditional diagnostic methods of the disease rely heavily on cognitive tests, brain imaging, and lumbar puncture, procedures that are expensive, invasive, and often unavailable in many countries.
As blood proteins are emerging candidates for AD, our team of researchers – in collaboration with researchers at University College London and clinicians at the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong – have systematically quantified more than 1000 plasma proteins with proximity extension assay (PEA), an ultrasensitive blood-based protein detection technology. Out of the 429 plasma proteins found to be dysregulated in the Hong Kong Chinese AD cohort, 19 were defined as “hub proteins” for AD. A scoring system has then been developed that can distinguish AD patients from healthy individuals at more than 96% accuracy. Furthermore, the system is also capable of differentiating the early, intermediate, and late stages of AD, which can be used for the monitoring of disease progression.
As the most comprehensive study of blood proteins in AD patients to date, the work has recently been published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and has also been featured and actively discussed on different scholarly exchange platforms on AD research such as Alzforum.
The work has formed a strong foundation that contributes to the development targeted therapy that can be utilized and further optimized for different populations around the world.
The 19 identified plasma hub proteins (yellow dots) are dysregulated in AD patient.
- The Morningside Professor of Life Science
- Chair Professor, Division of Life Science
- Director of State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience