Background Preclinical prediction of Alzheimer disease (AD) is important and critical to effective intervention. Plasma levels of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides have been a principal focus of the growing literature on blood-based biomarkers, but studies to date have varied in design, assay methods, and sample size, making it difficult to readily interpret the overall data.
Objective To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant prospective studies to determine whether plasma amyloid-β levels may predict development of dementia, AD, and cognitive decline.
Design We searched prospective studies published between 1995 and 2011 indexed in the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO databases. Selected studies included those measuring at least 1 relevant plasma amyloid-β species (Aβ40, Aβ42, or Aβ42:Aβ40 ratio) and reporting an effect estimate for dementia, AD, or cognitive change.
Main Outcome Measures Using a standardized extraction form, appropriate study parameters on subject information, exposure, and outcome were extracted. Random effects models were used to generate summary risk ratios and 95% confidence intervals comparing the bottom vs top quantiles for each plasma measure.
Results Thirteen studies with a total of 10 303 subjects met inclusion criteria for meta-analysis. Lower Aβ42:Aβ40 ratios were significantly associated with development of AD (summary risk ratio, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.04-2.46; P = .03) and dementia (risk ratio, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.02-2.75; P = .04). Significant heterogeneity was found for both summary estimates, which could not be explained by participants' age, sex distribution, the study's follow-up time, or year of publication. Plasma levels of Aβ40 and Aβ42 alone were not significantly associated with either outcome.
Conclusions Overall, the literature indicates that plasma Aβ42:Aβ40 ratios predict development of AD and dementia. However, significant heterogeneity in the meta-analysis underlines the need for substantial further investigation of plasma amyloid-β levels as a preclinical biomarker.