Neurodegenerative disorders: mechanisms, early diagnosis and biomarkers

PI:                              
Prof. F. Verhey, MD, PhD
Prof. R. van Oostenbrugge, MD, PhD

Research Staff:       
Dr. P. Aalten, PhD
Dr. M. Van Boxtel, MD, PhD
Dr. P. Hofman, MD, PhD
Prof. W. Backes, PhD
Dr. J. Jansen, PhD
Dr. A. Leentjens, MD, PhD
Dr. A. Duits, PhD
Dr. E. Gronenschild, PhD
Dr. S. Köhler, Phd
Dr. P-J. Visser, PhD

Postdocs:                 
Dr. S. Burgmans, PhD
Dr. H. Jacobs, PhD
Dr I. Ramakers, PhD

PhD-students:        
L. Clerx
L. Elias
H. van de Haar
R. Handels
M. Huijts
A. Moonen
S. Schievink
T. Van der Voort
S. Vos
W. Janssen
R Hamel
B. Reijs
E. Zhang
A. Mertens

Co-investigators:    
European Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium

Focus of research:
Translational research into the early diagnosis of pathological ageing

A large-scale national biobank, coordinated by MUMC and the VU-MC, formed the infrastructure for translational research into the early diagnosis of pathological ageing (Parelsnoer Neurodegeneratief), coordinated by Proven F. Verhey.

Novel diagnostic technology for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease will be examined and evaluated in terms of Health Technology Assessment, i.e., with respect to its added value to existing diagnostic procedures (LeARN, CTMM).

A project funded by VSB was started on the prediction of individual trajectories in cognitive disorders.

Collaboration with the Departments of Neurology and Radiology was intensified, which has led to a new study on neurovascular mechanisms of cognitive disorders, and the interaction between vascular and neurodegenerative mechanisms.  To assess brain microvascular pathology in the brain in vivo, novel imaging techniques are currently being developed. S. Burgmans and W. Backes started a pilot study on blood-brain barrier leakage in dementia (funded by an ISAO pilot award). They hypothesized increased blood-brain barrier permeability in Alzheimer patients and developed a new dynamic contrast enhanced MRI scan. A new grant of was obtained by these researchers to expand this research line.

On the European level, the research group has leading roles in projects on standardisation of biomarker assessment (JPND BIOMARKAPD) and the set-up of a European Medical information framework (IMI EMIF-AD),

Collaboration between the departments of Psychiatry, Neurology and Radiology was intensified, which has led to a new study on neurovascular mechanisms of cognitive disorders, and the interaction between vascular and neurodegenerative mechanisms.  To assess brain microvascular pathology in the brain in vivo, novel imaging techniques are currently being developed. S. Burgmans and W. Backes started a pilot study on blood-brain barrier (BBB) leakage in dementia (funded by an ISAO pilot award). They hypothesized increased blood-brain barrier permeability in Alzheimer patients and developed a new dynamic contrast enhanced MRI scan. A second BBBB project started up investigating the role of BBB leakage in patients with Vascular Cognitieve Impariment (Prof. R. van Oostenbrugge, Dr. W. Backes).

The VSB fonds/ZonMw for a research program on successful psychosocial reintegration of patients and caregivers after stroke continued in 2013; at the moment all data are collected and follow-up measurements are being completed. In this program 4 PhD students (Maastricht, Nijmegen and Utrecht) investigate the course and predictors of psychosocial functioning, costs of psychosocial care and effectiveness of two new psychosocial interventions for patients and caregivers aimed at self-management and cognitive behavioural therapy for post-stroke depression and anxiety. All projects will be finished in 2014.