Molecular biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease: progress and prospects

Dis Model Mech. 2018 May 8;11(5):dmm031781. doi: 10.1242/dmm.031781.


The neurodegenerative disorder Alzheimer's disease is characterised by the formation of β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain parenchyma, which cause synapse and neuronal loss. This leads to clinical symptoms, such as progressive memory deficits. Clinically, these pathological changes can be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid and with brain imaging, although reliable blood tests for plaque and tangle pathologies remain to be developed. Plaques and tangles often co-exist with other brain pathologies, including aggregates of transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 and Lewy bodies, but the extent to which these contribute to the severity of Alzheimer's disease is currently unknown. In this 'At a glance' article and poster, we summarise the molecular biomarkers that are being developed to detect Alzheimer's disease and its related pathologies. We also highlight the biomarkers that are currently in clinical use and include a critical appraisal of the challenges associated with applying these biomarkers for diagnostic and prognostic purposes of Alzheimer's disease and related neurodegenerative disorders, also in their prodromal clinical phases.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid; Biomarkers; Blood; Cerebrospinal fluid; Neurofilament; Neurogranin; Plasma; Serum; Tau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / blood
  • Alzheimer Disease / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Axons / pathology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / pathology


  • Biomarkers