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NINR Seeks Biomarker, Imaging Studies of Mild Cognitive Impairment

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Biomarkers, genetic information, and neuroimaging tools could be used to detect and enable preventative treatment of neurodegenerative diseases before the onset of clinical symptoms, and the National Institute of Nursing Research plans to use $2.5 million this year to stimulate new research into this potential.

Specifically, NINR plans to support studies that explore the capabilities of neuroimaging tools and biomarkers associated with mild cognitive impairment to identify individuals who are at risk for MCI.

NINR has a strong interest in MCI because it is now thought to be a transitional stage to Alzheimer's disease, although not all patients with MCI develop Alzheimer's. Early identification of this impairment could create a treatment window that could slow or prevent further degeneration, enhance the quality of life, and save healthcare costs.

NINR plans to use the $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2012 to fund three to five awards with up to $350,000.

Researchers may use the funding to pursue the use of biomarkers or genetic information to study similarities and differences in MCI and conditions that follow from it. They also may seek funds to use biomarkers or neuroimaging data to monitor the efficiency of treatments that are in development, including inhibitors, modulators, vaccines, tau kinase inhibitors, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other non-pharmacological approaches such as exercise, diet, and cognitive training.

Applicants also may use tissue biomarkers to detect early changes associated with MCI and examine the predictive value of tissue biomarkers for assessing risk for progression from MCI to early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Other studies could aim to assess the impact of pharmacologic or behavioral interventions for MCI and evaluate the co-development and combined impact of neuroimaging surrogate markers with preventive treatment strategies.