Public Release: 

BU researchers awarded $5 million to identify biomarkers for cerebral small vessel disease

Boston University Medical Center

(Boston)--To better predict, study and diagnose small vessel disease in the brain and its role in vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has been selected to participate in MarkVCID, a consortium designed to accelerate the development of new and existing biomarkers for small vessel VCID.

The five-year program, developed by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), includes seven research groups across the country collaborating to develop and validate candidate biomarkers for cerebral small vessel disease. BUSM will receive more than $5 million over the course of this project.

Covert small vessel disease (SVD) of the brain increases the risk of stroke, dementia and death while impairing quality of life by affecting mood and gait. Currently there is no prevention or treatment methods aimed specifically at the disease, beyond controlling for hypertension.

Under the direction of BUSM Principal Investigator Sudha Seshadri, MD, the researchers plan to measure two circulating biomarkers of microglial (cells in the brain and spinal cord) inflammation (sCD-14 and YKL-40) and a marker of astroglial (star shaped brain cells) injury (GFAP) in approximately 17,000 persons enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study as well as four other cohorts that are members of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium. They will then assess the additional value of the new biomarkers over previously established clinical, circulating and vascular risk factors.

"The team-based approach taken by the consortium allows us to study candidate biomarkers across different clinical settings at multiple institutions," said Roderick Corriveau, PhD, program director, NINDS. "Ultimately, we hope to develop a gold standard to identify cerebral small vessel disease early enough to intervene with treatment."

The second phase of the project is expected to begin in approximately two years and will involve the dissemination of those biomarkers showing the greatest potential to all consortium sites. The goal is to deliver small vessel VCID biomarkers that are ready for phase II and phase III clinical trials.

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About BUSM

Boston University School of Medicine began as the New England Women's Medical College in 1848 and was incorporated as Boston University School of Medicine in 1873. A leading academic and research institution with an enrollment of approximately 700 medical-degree students and 950 graduate students pursuing master's and doctoral degrees, the school has approximately 1,240 full- and part-time faculty members.

One of the major biomedical research institutions in the United States, it is renowned for its programs in cardiovascular disease, cancer, pulmonary and infectious diseases, dermatology, arthritis, pediatrics and geriatrics, among others. In the vanguard of research activities, BUSM faculty contribute to more than 950 active grants and contracts, and provide clinical leadership for the Framingham Heart Study, the largest epidemiological study in the world.

Its teaching affiliates include Boston Medical Center, the Boston VA Healthcare System, Kaiser Permanente in northern California and Roger Williams Medical Center in Rhode Island. For more information, please visit http://www.bumc.bu.edu/busm/

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