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Alzheimer’s Biomarker Project to Gain Whole Genome Data

Neuron illustration (NIH)

(National Institute on Aging, NIH)

The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a project for validating the use of biomarkers to diagnose the advance of Alzheimer’s disease, will obtain the complete genomic sequencing data of people with the disease. The Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) receives and stores the data for the project.

ADNI aims to define the rate of progress of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, to enable early diagnosis of the disease and provide a large database from which to aid the design of clinical treatment trials. The data collected by ADNI currently come from blood tests, tests of cerebrospinal fluid, and MRI/PET imaging.

ADNI will now have access to the whole-genome sequencing of more than 800 people enrolled in the project. The new mountain of genetic data — estimated at 165 terabytes — will be added to the neuro-psychological measures, standardized structural and functional imaging, and biomarker measures from blood and spinal fluid.

All of the data in ADNI are freely available to scientists, which has resulted in more than 500 scientific manuscripts. Sequencing of the 800 genomes is expected to take some 16 weeks.

ADNI is funded by National Institutes of Health, with support from pharmaceutical companies, science-related businesses, and not-for-profit organizations. The whole-genome sequencing effort is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association and the not-for-profit Brin Wojcicki Foundation, a charitable organization created by Anne Wojcicki, founder of the online genetics firm 23andMe, and her husband, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google.

“This effort, involving almost 60 sites around the country, is the best chance we have for understanding this brutal disease,” says Arthur Toga, UCLA’s neuro imaging lab director and professor of neurology. “Linking these deep-sequencing data with imaging and other data may help solve the puzzles in Alzheimer’s that still vex us.”

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