Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a source of altered brain perfusion and ischemia, potentially leading to cerebral injury and blood brain barrier (BBB) disruption, which may result in the permeation of neurospecific molecules into the bloodstream. We retrospectively analyzed circulating levels of biomarkers of cerebral injury: Astrocyte-specific glial acidic fibrillary protein (GFAP), calcium-binding protein B (S100 b), stress response marker growth differential factor 15 (GDF15), and microtubule associated Tau protein, in patients with AF and non-AF controls. A total of 196 AF cases and 47 non-AF controls were enrolled in this study all without previous clinical stroke or cerebral injury. Plasma samples were obtained from the Intermountain INSPIRE biobank registry. AF status was determined at the time of the sample draw using clinical diagnosis. Assessment of circulating biomarkers was conducted with EIA. Multivariate linear modeling, using natural log, and square root transformation of the biomarkers, was done adjusting for (1) CHA2DS2-VASc and anticoagulation, and (2) age, gender, coronary artery disease and anticoagulation. Circulating Tau, GDF15, and GFAP were elevated in AF cases. After multivariate adjustment, GFAP and Tau remained significantly elevated in the AF, whereas the signal for GDF15 was confounded by age. In conclusion, circulating biomarkers of neuronal and glial injury Tau and GFAP are elevated in patients with AF that are consistent with subclinical cerebral injury and disruption of the BBB, which can predispose these patients to the development of cognitive dysfunction and/or dementia later in life.
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