The Importance of Biomarkers

Biomarkers are substances or characteristics that are used as indicators of biological states. Some examples are elevated PSA levels, which may indicate prostate cancer, and elevated blood pressure readings, which may indicate high blood pressure. These measurable substances help us diagnosing disease, create individualized treatment plans, and ultimately, develop standards for evaluating the effectiveness of treatments. They are the signposts that guide our long and complicated journey toward finding treatments, preventions, and cures for Alzheimer’s disease.

For an article on Dr. Gail Li's epidemiology and biomarker research, see our Spring 2012 issue of Dimensions here.

Biomarkers & Research

Research into biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease is an important focal point of the ADRC’s current research and exploration. Our biomarker research aims to identify specific biomarkers that definitively indicate whether people have Alzheimer’s disease or whether they may be at risk of developing dementia sometime in the future. We hope that by identifying biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease we will be able to accurately tailor Alzheimer’s treatments and recognize people who may be good candidates for prevention treatments.

Some specific goals of our biomarker research are to:

  • Improve accuracy in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease
  • Monitor people’s responses to Alzheimer’s treatments
  • Guide doctors in how to best treat patients
  • Predict who will go on to develop dementia

Biomarkers in Cerebrospinal Fluid

Our biomarker research focuses primarily on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a fluid surrounding and inside the brain and spinal cord that provides basic mechanical and immune protection for the brain. CSF is a clear, water-like substance that can tell us a variety of details about the changes that may be occurring in a person’s brain. Our researchers collect CSF by conducting research lumbar punctures, which you can read more about here.