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Nationwide Alzheimer's Study Completes Genomic Analysis Phase

By Steve Tokar

Researchers with the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a five-year, nationwide, longitudinal study of possible markers of Alzheimer’s disease, announced that a genomic analysis of the 800 participants in the study is more than 95 percent complete, and that the data will be shared with scientists around the world for further analysis.

The genomic data will be used by researchers to search for genes that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to ADNI Principal Investigator Michael Weiner, MD, director of the Center for the Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and professor of radiology, medicine, psychiatry, and neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Alzheimer’s disease currently affects up to 5 million people in the United States alone, observes Weiner.

The primary goal of ADNI is to use data from magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, and blood, urine, and spinal fluid samples to determine whether brain imaging, other biological markers, and clinical and neuropsychological assessment can accurately measure the progression of mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease.

The identification of specific biomarkers will provide a useful tool for researchers and clinicians in both the diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s disease and in the development, assessment, and monitoring of new treatments, Weiner notes.

“The release of this genetics data, in combination with the clinical, cognitive, MRI, PET, and blood/cerebrospinal fluid data already in the ADNI database, will now allow investigators to explore genetic factors related to the rate of progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.

All data from the ADNI consortium are available to qualified investigators through a web-based database (http://www.loni.ucla.edu/ADNI).

“Access to this huge amount of data on a public website, from an ongoing clinical study, is unprecedented,” says Weiner.

One major Alzheimer’s disease risk gene, APOE4, has been consistently shown to be associated with the form of the disease arising later in life that accounts for approximately 95 percent of all cases, observes Andrew Saykin, PsyD, director of the IU Center for Neuroimaging at the Indiana University School of Medicine and leader of the ADNI genetics research team. According to Saykin, it is widely suspected that variants in an ensemble of other genes play a role in susceptibility to the disease and may influence the age of onset, expression, and rate of progression of neurodegenerative changes in the brain.

More information on ADNI is available at http://www.adni-info.org/.

The ADNI genetics study employed the Illumina 610 Quad array, which used more than 620,000 markers for this investigation. The research team represented a collaboration between the Translational Genomics Institute (TGen) of Phoenix (www.tgen.org), the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease (http://ncrad.iu.edu), the University of California, Irvine Brain Imaging Center (http://www.bic.uci.edu), the IU Center for Neuroimaging (www.neuroimaging.medicine.iu.edu), and the 59 ADNI sites.

Support for the genome wide association study was provided by grants from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) (www.fnih.org),  the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, with additional support from a foundation that prefers to remain anonymous, as well as Merck and Co., Inc. (www.merck.com), Pfizer Inc (www.pfizer.com),  and Gene Network Sciences (www.gnsbiotech.com). Additional in-kind support was provided by NCRAD and Illumina (www.illumina.com), manufacturer of the gene arrays. Additional support for analysis was provided by Vanda Pharmaceuticals and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

ADNI was launched in 2004 by the NIA (www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers), the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with private pharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations participating through the FNIH.

Current private sector funders include Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca AB, Bayer Schering Pharma AG, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai Global Clinical Development, Elan Corporation, Genentech, General Electric Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline, Innogenetics, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly and Co., Inc., Merck and Co., Inc., Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Schering-Plough, Synarc Inc., and Wyeth Research, as well as non-profit partners the Alzheimer’s Association and the Institute for the Study of Aging.

SFVAMC has the largest medical research program in the national VA system, with more than 200 research scientists, all of whom are faculty members at UCSF.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

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ADNI Media Contacts:

Eric Schoch  
317-274-7722
[email protected]
IU School of Medicine

Peggy Vaughn  
301-496-1752
[email protected]
National Institute on Aging

Thuy Morzenti
301-594-9928
[email protected]
Foundation for the National Institutes of Health