Research Projects

Can biomarker profiles that signal for the presence of Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease be identified in the blood?

Awarded to:
Dr Alice Chen-Plotkin

University of Pennsylvania






Scientists believe that treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease will be most effective when administered early in the disease process, before significant brain damage occurs.

However, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are both challenging to diagnose in the early stages.

Currently, there are no established blood tests for diagnosing these two diseases, which are greatly needed to routinely assess early stages of the disease and to determine the effectiveness of treatments.

Why is this important?

By collaborating with other researchers, Dr Chen-Plotkin and colleagues will be able to analyse biomarkers from more than 1,000 people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

The large amount of data collected from this study will allow scientists to identify patterns of changes in blood samples that accurately and reliably indicate the presence of a specific disease.

The results may also reveal common molecular mechanisms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Ultimately, this information could contribute to the development of a much needed diagnostic tool and inform the development of future treatments.

What will they do?

Dr Alice Chen-Plotkin and colleagues have planned a series of studies to identify blood-based biomarkers from people who have either Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

Biomarkers are measurable factors that indicate the risk or presence of a disease.

Although some biomarkers have already been identified, inexpensive, non-invasive biomarkers (e.g. a blood test) are needed to improve the early detection and differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases.

To identify biomarkers, Dr Chen-Plotkin’s team will collaborate with another research group at the University of Pennsylvania to analyse blood samples from a large number of people with either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

The two research groups will use the same laboratory tests to measure levels of more than 1,000 different proteins in each blood sample.

The researchers will look for shared and distinct changes in these proteins in people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s to create protein signatures that can help diagnose and differentiate the two diseases.

This project is funded through a global funding partnership, called Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Disease, between Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Association, The Michael J Fox Foundation and the Weston Brain Institute.