Personalized Computational Causal Modeling of the Alzheimer Disease Biomarker Cascade

Jeffrey R. Petrella, J. Jiang, K. Sreeram, S. Dalziel, P. M. Doraiswamy, W. Hao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mathematical models of complex diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have the potential to play a significant role in personalized medicine. Specifically, models can be personalized by fitting parameters with individual data for the purpose of discovering primary underlying disease drivers, predicting natural history, and assessing the effects of theoretical interventions. Previous work in causal/mechanistic modeling of Alzheimer’s Disease progression has modeled the disease at the cellular level and on a short time scale, such as minutes to hours. No previous studies have addressed mechanistic modeling on a personalized level using clinically validated biomarkers in individual subjects. Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the feasibility of personalizing a causal model of Alzheimer’s Disease progression using longitudinal biomarker data. Design/Setting/Participants/Measurements: We chose the Alzheimer Disease Biomarker Cascade model, a widely-referenced hypothetical model of Alzheimer’s Disease based on the amyloid cascade hypothesis, which we had previously implemented mathematically as a mechanistic model. We used available longitudinal demographic and serial biomarker data in over 800 subjects across the cognitive spectrum from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. The data included participants that were cognitively normal, had mild cognitive impairment, or were diagnosed with dementia (probable Alzheimer’s Disease). The model consisted of a sparse system of differential equations involving four measurable biomarkers based on cerebrospinal fluid proteins, imaging, and cognitive testing data. Results: Personalization of the Alzheimer Disease Biomarker Cascade model with individual serial biomarker data yielded fourteen personalized parameters in each subject reflecting physiologically meaningful characteristics. These included growth rates, latency values, and carrying capacities of the various biomarkers, most of which demonstrated significant differences across clinical diagnostic groups. The model fits to training data across the entire cohort had a root mean squared error (RMSE) of 0.09 (SD 0.081) on a variable scale between zero and one, and were robust, with over 90% of subjects showing an RMSE of < 0.2. Similarly, in a subset of subjects with data on all four biomarkers in at least one test set, performance was high on the test sets, with a mean RMSE of 0.15 (SD 0.117), with 80% of subjects demonstrating an RMSE < 0.2 in the estimation of future biomarker points. Cluster analysis of parameters revealed two distinct endophenotypic groups, with distinct biomarker profiles and disease trajectories. Conclusion: Results support the feasibility of personalizing mechanistic models based on individual biomarker trajectories and suggest that this approach may be useful for reclassifying subjects on the Alzheimer’s clinical spectrum. This computational modeling approach is not limited to the Alzheimer Disease Biomarker Cascade hypothesis, and can be applied to any mechanistic hypothesis of disease progression in the Alzheimer’s field that can be monitored with biomarkers. Thus, it offers a computational platform to compare and validate various disease hypotheses, personalize individual biomarker trajectories and predict individual response to theoretical prevention and therapeutic intervention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalThe journal of prevention of Alzheimer's disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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