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2016 Grants - Ben Assayag
Blood Exosomal miRNAs as Biomarkers in Post-Stroke Brain Recovery/Dementia
Einor Ben Assayag, Ph.D.
Tel Aviv Medical Center
Tel Aviv, Israel
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Can changes in a novel blood-based biomarker be used to help predict who will develop dementia after a stroke?
Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked, causing inflammation and death of brain cells, which can impair thinking and may lead to the development of post-stroke cognitive impairment (PSCI). Research suggests that individuals who have had a stroke may also be at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but the mechanisms that link these conditions are not yet clear.
A major goal of Alzheimer’s research is to find biomarkers that can help identify individuals at risk of developing the disease, and who may benefit from treatments to prevent or slow disease progression. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small molecules that affect many cellular processes including inflammation and brain cell function. Recent studies have identified changes in the levels and types of miRNAs in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Specific miRNAs located inside structures called exosomes are being investigated as potential biomarkers for Alzheimer’s. Exosomes are tiny sac-like structures that can be released from nerve cells into the circulating blood, meaning they have the potential to serve as novel blood-based biomarkers for the detection of brain diseases.
Einor Ben Assayag, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to determine if exosomal miRNAs can serve as biomarkers to predict which individuals may be at risk for developing dementia after a stroke. Their study will include 575 individuals who had a stroke and were then tested for memory problems annually over an eight-year time period. The types and levels of miRNAs for each individual will be analyzed to see if there are certain biomarker “signatures” that can predict the risk for cognitive decline. The researchers will also investigate how changes in different types of miRNA relate to levels of brain inflammation and structural changes detected by brain imaging.
If successful, the reslts of this effort could lead to the development of a non-invasive blood-based biomarker test that can be used to identify individuals who have a higher likelihood of developing dementia after stroke.