Objective: To determine the stability and functional significance of blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD).
Methods: Thirty-six patients (mean age 71 +/- 7 years) with mild to moderate AD (Mini-Mental State Examination [MMSE] 19 +/- 5) participated in a biomarker study involving clinical assessments, brain imaging, and CSF and plasma collection over 1 year. BBB integrity was assessed with the CSF-albumin index (CSF-AI).
Results: BBB disruption was present in an important subgroup of patients (n = 8/36, 22%) at all time points measured. CSF-AI was highly reproducible over 1 year with an intraclass correlation of 0.96. Age, sex, and APOE status did not correlate with CSF-AI. Vascular factors (blood pressure, Hachinski ischemia score, MR-derived white matter hyperintensity, body mass index) were not strongly associated with CSF-AI levels (p = 0.066). CSF/plasma IgG ratio correlated with CSF-AI in a manner indicating that peripheral IgG has greater access to the CNS in patients with an impaired BBB. Further evidence for the physiologic significance of the CSF-AI was noted in the form of correlations with rates of disease progression, including annual change on MMSE (r(2) = 0.11, p = 0.023), annual Clinical Dementia Rating sum-of-boxes change (r(2) = 0.29, p = 0.001), and annual ventricular volume change (r(2) = 0.17, p = 0.007).
Conclusions: Blood-brain barrier (BBB) impairment is a stable characteristic over 1 year and present in an important subgroup of patients with Alzheimer disease. Age, gender, APOE status, vascular risk factors, and baseline Mini-Mental State Examination score did not explain the variability in BBB integrity. A role for BBB impairment as a modifier of disease progression is suggested by correlations between CSF-albumin index and measures of disease progression over 1 year.