August 29, 2022
The Challenge and Necessity of New Neurodegeneration Biomarkers
A central challenge to neurodegeneration research is identifying the presence and type of neurodegenerative disorder as early as possible. Many of these conditions take years to manifest, so by the time a patient displays symptoms it may already be too late to intervene with drugs.
As such, there has been a push to find specific biomarkers associated with or potentially causative in neurodegeneration that can be measured outside of the brain. Because access to the brain is so limited, molecules have to be taken from the blood or cerebrospinal fluid to be measured. Researchers are trying to find biomarkers both specific to one particular disease class and for neuronal damage in general.
The Promise of Neurofilaments
One promising biomarker candidate for neuron death is neurofilaments. These are protein polymers that form structures necessary for maintaining the architecture of neurons. When the axons of a neuron become damaged (either through disease or acute trauma) neurofilament proteins are released into the blood.
Assays for neurofilaments have indeed begun to reveal changes in neurofilament concentration under a variety of disease and neuron damage conditions, prompting excitement about their potential as a biomarker of neuron damage. A major potential application would be if lowered neurofilament levels could serve as a biomarker that new drug treatment is halting neurodegeneration or neuron death.
Unfortunately, thus far, some preliminary tests in clinical trials for ALS drugs have shown that neurofilament levels can drop with no associated improvement in neurodegenerative decline. However, as neurofilament assays make their way into more clinical settings, the potential and reliability of this biomarker await more data and investigation in different neurodegenerative diseases.
Outsourcing Bioinformatics Analysis
If neurofilament biomarkers are to be successful in clinical settings and drug trials, the unique profiles of neurofilament in different diseases and the changes to those protein levels over time will need to be determined via rigorous bioinformatics analyses. Without this depth of understanding, the potential of neurofilament biomarkers will remain untapped.
Applying these next-generation genomic research techniques requires both computational and biological expertise. What sets Bridge Informatics apart from other bioinformatics-as-a-service (BaaS) providers is our staff of skilled computational scientists with the bench experience and biological knowledge to understand your project. Book a free discovery call with us today to see if we can meet your data analysis and pipeline development needs.
Fionn O’Sullivan, Neuroscientist & Content Writer, Bridge Informatics
Fionn is a Content Writer at Bridge Informatics, a professional services firm that helps biotech customers implement advanced techniques in the management and analysis of genomic data. Bridge Informatics focuses on data mining, machine learning, and various bioinformatic techniques to discover biomarkers and companion diagnostics. If you’re interested in reaching out, please email [email protected] or [email protected].