Aidan Kenny, Eva M. Jiménez-Mateos, María Ascensión Zea-Sevilla, Alberto Rábano, Pablo Gili-Manzanaro, Jochen H. M. Prehn, David C. Henshall, Jesús Ávila, Tobias Engel & Félix Hernández
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by a progressive loss of neurons and cognitive functions. Therefore, early diagnosis of AD is critical. The development of practical and non-invasive diagnostic tests for AD remains, however, an unmet need. In the present proof-of-concept study we investigated tear fluid as a novel source of disease-specific protein and microRNA-based biomarkers for AD development using samples from patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD. Tear protein content was evaluated via liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and microRNA content was profiled using a genome-wide high-throughput PCR-based platform. These complementary approaches identified enrichment of specific proteins and microRNAs in tear fluid of AD patients. In particular, we identified elongation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) as a unique protein present only in AD samples. Total microRNA abundance was found to be higher in tears from AD patients. Among individual microRNAs, microRNA-200b-5p was identified as a potential biomarker for AD with elevated levels present in AD tear fluid samples compared to controls. Our study suggests that tears may be a useful novel source of biomarkers for AD and that the identification and verification of biomarkers within tears may allow for the development of a non-invasive and cost-effective diagnostic test for AD.