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      Phenotypic Heterogeneity in Dementia: A Challenge for Epidemiology and Biomarker Studies

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          Dementia can result from a number of distinct diseases with differing etiology and pathophysiology. Even within the same disease, there is considerable phenotypic heterogeneity with varying symptoms and disease trajectories. Dementia diagnosis is thus very complex, time-consuming, and expensive and can only be made definitively post-mortem with histopathological confirmation. These inherent difficulties combined with the overlap of some symptoms and even neuropathological features, present a challenging problem for research in the field. This has likely hampered progress in epidemiological studies of risk factors and preventative interventions, as well as genetic and biomarker research. Resource limitations in large epidemiologically studies mean that limited diagnostic criteria are often used, which can result in phenotypically heterogeneous disease states being grouped together, potentially resulting in misclassification bias. When biomarkers are identified for etiologically heterogeneous diseases, they will have low specificity for any utility in clinical practice, even if their sensitivity is high. We highlight several challenges in in the field which must be addressed for the success of future genetic and biomarker studies, and may be key to the development of the most effective treatments. As a step toward achieving this goal, defining the dementia as a biological construct based on the presence of specific pathological features, rather than clinical symptoms, will enable more precise predictive models. It has the potential to lead to the discovery of novel genetic variants, as well as the identification of individuals at heightened risk of the disease, even prior to the appearance of clinical symptoms.

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          Most cited references 58

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          The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease: recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease.

          The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association charged a workgroup with the task of revising the 1984 criteria for Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia. The workgroup sought to ensure that the revised criteria would be flexible enough to be used by both general healthcare providers without access to neuropsychological testing, advanced imaging, and cerebrospinal fluid measures, and specialized investigators involved in research or in clinical trial studies who would have these tools available. We present criteria for all-cause dementia and for AD dementia. We retained the general framework of probable AD dementia from the 1984 criteria. On the basis of the past 27 years of experience, we made several changes in the clinical criteria for the diagnosis. We also retained the term possible AD dementia, but redefined it in a manner more focused than before. Biomarker evidence was also integrated into the diagnostic formulations for probable and possible AD dementia for use in research settings. The core clinical criteria for AD dementia will continue to be the cornerstone of the diagnosis in clinical practice, but biomarker evidence is expected to enhance the pathophysiological specificity of the diagnosis of AD dementia. Much work lies ahead for validating the biomarker diagnosis of AD dementia. Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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            Finding the missing heritability of complex diseases.

            Genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with complex human diseases and traits, and have provided valuable insights into their genetic architecture. Most variants identified so far confer relatively small increments in risk, and explain only a small proportion of familial clustering, leading many to question how the remaining, 'missing' heritability can be explained. Here we examine potential sources of missing heritability and propose research strategies, including and extending beyond current genome-wide association approaches, to illuminate the genetics of complex diseases and enhance its potential to enable effective disease prevention or treatment.
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              Diagnosis and management of dementia with Lewy bodies: third report of the DLB Consortium.

              The dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) Consortium has revised criteria for the clinical and pathologic diagnosis of DLB incorporating new information about the core clinical features and suggesting improved methods to assess them. REM sleep behavior disorder, severe neuroleptic sensitivity, and reduced striatal dopamine transporter activity on functional neuroimaging are given greater diagnostic weighting as features suggestive of a DLB diagnosis. The 1-year rule distinguishing between DLB and Parkinson disease with dementia may be difficult to apply in clinical settings and in such cases the term most appropriate to each individual patient should be used. Generic terms such as Lewy body (LB) disease are often helpful. The authors propose a new scheme for the pathologic assessment of LBs and Lewy neurites (LN) using alpha-synuclein immunohistochemistry and semiquantitative grading of lesion density, with the pattern of regional involvement being more important than total LB count. The new criteria take into account both Lewy-related and Alzheimer disease (AD)-type pathology to allocate a probability that these are associated with the clinical DLB syndrome. Finally, the authors suggest patient management guidelines including the need for accurate diagnosis, a target symptom approach, and use of appropriate outcome measures. There is limited evidence about specific interventions but available data suggest only a partial response of motor symptoms to levodopa: severe sensitivity to typical and atypical antipsychotics in approximately 50%, and improvements in attention, visual hallucinations, and sleep disorders with cholinesterase inhibitors.

                Author and article information

                Front Public Health
                Front Public Health
                Front. Public Health
                Frontiers in Public Health
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                19 June 2018
                : 6
                Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University , Melbourne, VIC, Australia
                Author notes

                Edited by: Charles B. Hall, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, United States

                Reviewed by: Terri Kang Johnson, Dexcom, Inc., United States; Charalampos Socrates Siristatidis, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

                *Correspondence: Joanne Ryan joanne.ryan@

                This article was submitted to Epidemiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Public Health

                Copyright © 2018 Ryan, Fransquet, Wrigglesworth and Lacaze.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 0, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 61, Pages: 6, Words: 5327
                Funded by: National Health and Medical Research Council 10.13039/501100000925
                Award ID: APP1135727
                Funded by: Monash University 10.13039/501100001779
                Public Health


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