Peripheral and central markers of inflammation in mild cognitive impairment

  • Salman Karim

    Student thesis: Doctor of Medicine


    There has been accumulating scientific evidence, over the last three decades, of the role of inflammatory processes in the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Population based studies suggest that plasma levels of inflammatory markers are raised in peripheral blood of people with AD. People on long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have a lower prevalence of AD. Moreover, both animal and human histopathology studies have reported localization of inflammation in brain areas primarily affected by AD pathology. Areas of increased inflammation can be visualized in vivo by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans using the PK11195 ligand that binds with the benzodiazepine receptor sites of activated microglial cells. Cognitive decline in AD has been shown to correlate with levels of microglial activation using PK11195 PET scans. People with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are known to be at high risk of developing AD.We aimed to investigate the association between peripheral and central markers of inflammation and cognitive decline in a group of people with amnestic MCI.MCI subjects (n=70) underwent cognitive testing, IL-6 and CRP in peripheral blood were measured and repeated after 1 year. A sub group (n=15) was followed up for another year and central brain microglial activation was measured by PET using PK11195 along with cognitive and peripheral inflammatory marker measurement.The mean CRP and IL-6 levels of the cohort increased over one year but the rise was only significant for CRP. No association was detected between inflammatory markers levels and cognition as measured by a battery of cognitive instruments. Group comparisons of the PET cohort with healthy controls (n=5) showed increased PK11195 binding (mean binding potential) in frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, putamen, occipital lobes and significantly increased binding in posterior cingulate gyrus. This study, to our knowledge, is unique in studying makers of inflammation in amnestic MCI participants both in peripheral blood and brain. The results of this study, in the light of current literature, add to the importance of recognition of inflammatory processes in people at risk of developing AD. The results suggest that CRP levels rise significantly over time and are detectable in peripheral blood by using practically simple laboratory techniques. The results also suggest that activated microglia in amnestic MCI patients can be visualized in vivo by using PK11195 PET scans and show higher levels of activation as compared to healthy controls. These finding could be useful in identifying people with malactivated (pro-inflammatory) microglia as potential targets for prevention/early treatment strategies. Further studies with larger samples sizes and long term follow-up are needed to investigate whether these peripheral and central inflammatory markers could shed light on the aetiology of AD and be useful in monitoring disease progression.
    Date of Award1 Aug 2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester


    • Mild cognitive impairment
    • Inflammation

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