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Plasma glial fibrillary acidic protein is elevated in cognitively normal older adults at risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Translational Psychiatry | January 11, 2021

Chatterjee P, Pedrini S, Stoops E, Goozee K, Villemagne VL, Asih PR, Verberk IMW, Dave P, Taddei K, Sohrabi HR, Zetterberg H, Blennow K, Teunissen CE, Vanderstichele HM and Martins RN

Translational psychiatry. 2021;11:27



Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), an astrocytic cytoskeletal protein, can be measured in blood samples, and has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, plasma GFAP has not been investigated in cognitively normal older adults at risk of AD, based on brain amyloid-β (Aβ) load. Cross-sectional analyses were carried out for plasma GFAP and plasma Aβ1–42/Aβ1–40 ratio, a blood-based marker associated with brain Aβ load, in participants (65–90 years) categorised into low (Aβ−, n = 63) and high (Aβ+, n = 33) brain Aβ load groups via Aβ positron emission tomography. Plasma GFAP, Aβ1–42, and Aβ1–40 were measured using the Single molecule array (Simoa) platform. Plasma GFAP levels were significantly higher (p < 0.00001), and plasma Aβ1–42/Aβ1–40 ratios were significantly lower (p < 0.005), in Aβ+ participants compared to Aβ− participants, adjusted for covariates age, sex, and apolipoprotein E-ε4 carriage. A receiver operating characteristic curve based on a logistic regression of the same covariates, the base model, distinguished Aβ+ from Aβ− (area under the curve, AUC = 0.78), but was outperformed when plasma GFAP was added to the base model (AUC = 0.91) and further improved with plasma Aβ1–42/Aβ1–40 ratio (AUC = 0.92). The current findings demonstrate that plasma GFAP levels are elevated in cognitively normal older adults at risk of AD. These observations suggest that astrocytic damage or activation begins from the pre-symptomatic stage of AD and is associated with brain Aβ load. Observations from the present study highlight the potential of plasma GFAP to contribute to a diagnostic blood biomarker panel (along with plasma Aβ1–42/Aβ1–40 ratios) for cognitively normal older adults at risk of AD.

This study was performed using the Quanterix HD-1 Analyzer.