Thanks to new funding from the National Institutes of Health and private donors, we now offer three ways that WRAP participants can engage in biomarker research: lumbar puncture (LP), MRI scanning, and PET scanning. The data is most valuable when combined and compared to the cognitive testing.
The Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention has set a goal of gathering biomarker data from all of our eligible participants. This data is the future of Alzheimer’s disease research at UW and around the world.
Biomarkers are measures, gained through laboratory and imaging tests, which provide information about the stage and severity of specific diseases. The WRAP study is investigating biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and related disorders including vascular disease. Biomarker information gathered over time, through all three methods listed below, and in conjunction with cognitive testing, provides a detailed picture of normal and abnormal brain changes, risk and resiliency characteristics, and the disease course. Through biomarkers, it is possible to see changes in people’s brains many years before other symptoms appear.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
MRI provides information on the health of your brain tissue and blood vessels. MRI uses a strong magnet to produce detailed images of body structures including the size and shape of your brain and vascular system. The procedure is safe and painless.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
PET is an imaging technique that uses very small amounts of radioactive compounds that allow researchers to see processes in the brain. We are using PET to quantify the two defining features of AD—the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
Lumbar Puncture (LP)
Through the LP, we collect a small amount of Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF). CSF bathes the brain and contains amyloid and tau proteins, the building blocks that form plaques and tangles; these proteins are the signal biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.
To learn more about MRI, LP, and PET, please visit our FAQ or Contact WRAP. Currently, these procedures are open to all participants but only available at our Madison site. MRIs will be an option in Milwaukee in the near future!
The main WRAP visit is largely unchanged; the value of looking at cognitive and lifestyle factors over many years remains and is enhanced through additional biomarker data. With your help, we can answer many unsolved questions: How early in life do plaques and tangles appear? Are they a good predictor of future cognitive symptoms? Are there ways to reduce one’s risk, or to increase resiliency? These biomarkers procedures will help us work towards answering those questions.
If you are a current or former WRAP participant interested in coming in for a biomarker visit, please Contact WRAP for scheduling options.