The advent of proteomics offers an unprecedented opportunity to predict dementia onset. We examined this in data from 52,645 adults without dementia in the UK Biobank, with 1,417 incident cases and a follow-up time of 14.1 years. Of 1,463 plasma proteins, GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2 consistently associated most with incident all-cause dementia (ACD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia (VaD), and ranked high in protein importance ordering. Combining GFAP (or GDF15) with demographics produced desirable predictions for ACD (area under the curve (AUC) = 0.891) and AD (AUC = 0.872) (or VaD (AUC = 0.912)). This was also true when predicting over 10-year ACD, AD and VaD. Individuals with higher GFAP levels were 2.32 times more likely to develop dementia. Notably, GFAP and LTBP2 were highly specific for dementia prediction. GFAP and NEFL began to change at least 10 years before dementia diagnosis. Our findings strongly highlight GFAP as an optimal biomarker for dementia prediction, even more than 10 years before the diagnosis, with implications for screening people at high risk for dementia and for early intervention.
The data used in the present study are available from UK Biobank with restrictions applied. Data were used under license and are thus not publicly available. Access to the UK Biobank data can be requested through a standard protocol (https://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/register-apply/). Data used in this study are available in the UK Biobank under application number 19542. All data supporting the findings described in this manuscript are available in the article and in the supplementary materials and from the corresponding author upon request. Source data are provided with this paper.