What do we do:
Clinical research

Dra. Mercè Boada, Medical director

"There are many factors involved in making the diagnosis a diagnosis of excellence. At Fundació ACE we aim to generate synergies among all research programs to guarantee the maximum possible scope of our research."

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Biomarkers

Biomarkers are biological indicators that are used to find out if a person has the disease or in what phase it is. An example of biomarkers known is glucose, having a high level is an indicator of diabetes.

The information that is extracted from biomarkers is essential to fine-tune the diagnosis in cases where neuropsychological tests and the usual neuroimaging tests (eg scanner or resonance) can not be clarified with sufficient degree of certainty.

In Alzheimer's disease, the most studied biomarkers are those that are determined by the cerebrospinal fluid (LCR), a liquid that breaks the brain. The biomarkers in this liquid are the β-amyloid peptide42, the tau-total protein (t-tau) and the tau-phosphorylated (p-tau) protein.

These biomarkers measure both cerebral amyloidosis (β-amyloid42) and neurodegeneration (t-tau and p-tau). Both biomarkers help to increase diagnostic certainty in patients with mild cognitive impairment (DCL) and Alzheimer's disease according to the new diagnostic criteria (Alberts et al., 2011; McKhann et al., 2011).

In the Foundation, the biomarkers are determined in our laboratory by the technique of ELISA that is the most used. Our laboratory participates in the external quality control program of the Alzheimer's Association LCR (AA) (Mattsson N et al., 2013) biomarkers.

For the interpretation of the results of the analysis of biomarkers, the cutting points of each biomarker that is established in the laboratory are used and its value is the one used to indicate whether the biomarker is altered or not. If the three biomarkers are altered, it is considered that biomarkers are compatible with Alzheimer's disease and, if the three biomarkers are normal, it means that there is no Alzheimer's disease.

Neuroimaging

Neuroimaging is an essential tool for the study and prevention of Alzheimer's. It allows us to visualize the first signs and study the evolution of the disease.

In fact, together with biomarkers are the two ways we have to detect the changes that occur in early stages, ie before the first symptoms appear.

Thanks to this tool it is possible to identify in which phase of the disease a person is, and the characteristics of their state. This allows us to reach an accurate diagnosis and adapt the treatment, and with follow-up, quantify its effectiveness.

The main objectives of the Fundació ACE neuroimaging program are

  • detect when and how the disease begins to act,
  • and study the course that follows depending on different aspects.

That is why, with neuroimaging, we approach research from a holistic point of view, taking into account a multitude of factors that surround the human being, and considering all the biomarkers to which we have access.

Neuroimaging is in continuous technological development, and has now reached a high level of complexity and technological sophistication, which has placed it next to other biological measures in many areas of research.

Prevention

Before Alzheimer's disease manifests, there is a silent process that begins 15 to 20 years earlier. We are interested in detecting just this silent beginning, because when Alzheimer's manifests it is already too late to reverse the damage caused in the brain.

In Fundació ACE we are investigating the detection of the disease from that first moment, known as the preclinical phase of Alzheimer's. The objective is to understand the beginning of the disease in order to predict and prevent it.

In this line, we have two projects of our own and lead a European one to turn citizens into active agents of early detection.

On-going projects

FACEHBI - Fundació ACE Healthy Brain Initiative

Fundació ACE, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Clínica Corachan, Grifols, Piramal & Araclon Biotech

FACEHBI is a research project that aims to study the subjective memory complaints of 200 people without cognitive impairment, despite they notice memory loss.

MOPEAD - Models of Patient Engagement for Alzheimer's Disease

European Comission (H2020-JTI-IMI2-2015-05)

The MOPEAD project is a European initiative that aims to give citizens an active role in the early detection of Alzheimer's. For this reason, it studies the effectiveness of different participatory mechanisms.

BIOFACE - Study of Biomarkers in early cognitive mild cognitive impairment at Fundació ACE

Instituto de Salud Carlos III

The BIOFACE project that analyzes different biomarkers (neuroimaging, genetic and biochemical) in order to assess whether these can be a useful diagnostic tool for mild cognitive impairment in people under 65 years old.

NORFACE - Neuro-ophthalmology Research at Fundació ACE

Fundació Castell de Peralada, Fundació ACE, Topcon, European Comission (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions)

NORFACE is a project that studies the relation between cognitive impairment and the thickness of the retina in people with Alzheimer's, by using an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), a non-invasive technique that takes a photograph of the eye.