Alpha-synuclein and its modified forms as biomarkers for dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the second most common form of dementia following Alzheimer’s disease. This disease can be challenging to identify because symptoms can resemble those of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and/or mental illness. Currently, there is no test that can spot dementia with Lewy bodies and the only way to confirm the presence of this disease is by autopsy.

In this type of dementia, deposits known as Lewy bodies accumulate in the brain. Lewy bodies are formed by a protein inside neurons called alpha-synuclein. Alpha-synuclein is also found in cerebrospinal fluid, which is the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. While we know that alpha-synuclein in cerebrospinal fluid is helpful for distinguishing dementia with Lewy bodies from Alzheimer’s disease, further work is needed to improve this test.

The goal of Dr. Singh’s research program is to develop a test that can identify dementia with Lewy bodies and distinguish and the disease from Alzheimer’s. She will create a diagnostic tool for clinical use to measure alpha-synuclein, and also explore modifications of alpha-synuclein that occur in disease that could improve our ability to identify dementia with Lewy bodies.