Objective: There is an urgent need for sensitive, widely available, blood-based screening tests to identify presymptomatic individuals destined to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD). We investigated whether tau detected in plasma by our in-house NT1 assay is specifically altered in AD, and when applied to patients with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can serve to predict progression to AD dementia. The predictive value of NT1 versus tau measured using assays from Quanterix and Roche, and the specificity of NT1 for AD versus a nonspecific marker of neurodegeneration (neurofilament light [NfL]) were also examined.
Methods: NT1 tau and NfL were measured in plasma from prospectively followed patients with SCD or MCI who remained cognitively stable, converted to AD dementia, or converted to non-AD dementias, and in cognitively unimpaired participants. Tau was measured using Quanterix and Roche assays in baseline subjects with SCD and MCI.
Results: Plasma NT1 tau was specifically elevated in AD, but not in non-AD dementia compared with controls, whereas NfL was increased in both AD and non-AD dementias. Baseline specimens from individuals who had SCD or MCI revealed that NT1 tau, but not tau measured using Quanterix or Roche assays, is elevated in subjects who progress to AD dementia. As expected, baseline plasma NfL is elevated in those who progress to AD and non-AD dementias.
Interpretation: Plasma NT1 tau is a specific marker of AD, which is elevated early in disease and may prove useful as a first round screen to identify individuals at risk of developing AD. ANN NEUROL 2020;88:878-892.
© 2020 American Neurological Association.