Utility of Animal Models to Understand Human Alzheimer's Disease, Using the Mastermind Research Approach to Avoid Unnecessary Further Sacrifices of Animals

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 30;21(9):3158. doi: 10.3390/ijms21093158.


To diagnose and treat early-stage (preclinical) Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, we need body-fluid-based biomarkers that reflect the processes that occur in this stage, but current knowledge on associated processes is lacking. As human studies on (possible) onset and early-stage AD would be extremely expensive and time-consuming, we investigate the potential value of animal AD models to help to fill this knowledge gap. We provide a comprehensive overview of processes associated with AD pathogenesis and biomarkers, current knowledge on AD-related biomarkers derived from on human and animal brains and body fluids, comparisons of biomarkers obtained in human AD and frequently used animal AD models, and emerging body-fluid-based biomarkers. In human studies, amyloid beta (Aβ), hyperphosphorylated tau (P-tau), total tau (T-tau), neurogranin, SNAP-25, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), YKL-40, and especially neurofilament light (NfL) are frequently measured. In animal studies, the emphasis has been mostly on Aβ. Although a direct comparison between human (familial and sporadic) AD and (mostly genetic) animal AD models cannot be made, still, in brain, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and blood, a majority of similar trends are observed for human AD stage and animal AD model life stage. This indicates the potential value of animal AD models in understanding of the onset and early stage of AD. Moreover, animal studies can be smartly designed to provide mechanistic information on the interrelationships between the different AD processes in a longitudinal fashion and may also include the combinations of different conditions that may reflect comorbidities in human AD, according to the Mastermind Research approach.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; animal models; biomarker; body fluids; early diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Fluids / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques
  • Organ Specificity
  • Research


  • Biomarkers