top of page
Clinical and biomarker changes of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with Down syndrome: a cross-sectional study

Clinical and biomarker changes of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with Down syndrome: a cross-sectional study

Journal article

Abstract: Alzheimer’s disease and its complications are the leading cause of death in adults with Down syndrome. Studies have assessed Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with Down syndrome, but the natural history of biomarker changes in Down syndrome has not been established. The study characterized the order and timing of changes in biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in a population of adults with Down syndrome. Authors did a dual-centre cross-sectional study of adults with Down syndrome recruited through a population based health plan in Barcelona (Spain) and through services for people with intellectual disabilities in Cambridge (UK). Cognitive impairment in participants with Down syndrome was classified with the Cambridge Cognitive Examination for Older Adults with Down Syndrome (CAMCOG-DS). Only participants with mild or moderate disability were included who had at least one of the following Alzheimer’s disease measures: apolipoprotein E allele carrier status; plasma concentrations of amyloid β peptides 1–42 and 1–40 and their ratio (Aβ1–42/1–40), total tau protein, and neurofilament light chain (NFL); tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (p-tau), and NFL in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); and one or more of PET with ¹⁸F-fluorodeoxyglucose, PET with amyloid tracers, and MRI. Cognitively healthy euploid controls aged up to 75 years who had no biomarker abnormalities were recruited from the Sant Pau Initiative on Neurodegeneration. The authors studied 388 participants with Down syndrome (257 [66%] asymptomatic, 48 [12%] with prodromal Alzheimer’s disease, and 83 [21%] with Alzheimer’s disease dementia) and 242 euploid controls. CSF Aβ1–42/1–40 and plasma NFL values changed in individuals with Down syndrome as early as the third decade of life, and amyloid PET uptake changed in the fourth decade. ¹⁸F-fluorodeoxyglucose PET and CSF p-tau changes occurred later in the fourth decade of life, followed by hippocampal atrophy and changes in cognition in the fifth decade of life. Prodromal Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed at a median age of 50·2 years (IQR 47·5–54·1), and Alzheimer’s disease dementia at 53·7 years (49·5–57·2). Symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease prevalence increased with age in individuals with Down syndrome, reaching 90–100% in the seventh decade of life. The concluded that Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with Down syndrome has a long preclinical phase in which biomarkers follow a predictable order of changes over more than two decades. The similarities with sporadic and autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease and the prevalence of Down syndrome make this population a suitable target for Alzheimer’s disease preventive treatments.
Source: Fortea J, et al. Further understanding the connection between Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome., Vol 395, June 27, 2020, 1988-1997.

bottom of page