Mechanisms of ageing and development. vol:53 issue:1 pages:17-33
A blind study was set up to examine the in vitro growth characteristics of skin fibroblasts from 2 individuals with and 9 at risk for familial Alzheimer disease, 4 individuals with sporadic Alzheimer disease, 18 with Down syndrome as well as 5 younger and 6 older controls. Several variables (biopsy size, number of explants, medium, passage procedure) were standardized. Two growth characteristics were examined quantitatively: (i) the actual in vitro replicating life span was determined by counting the number of cells plated the previous week at 500,000 cells/flask (cumulative population doublings); and (ii) the growth potential was examined by a colony size distribution assay. A difference from the age-matched controls in the growth characteristics of skin fibroblasts was only observed for two patients with and one older individual at risk for familial Alzheimer disease. The growth properties of skin fibroblast cultures from patients with sporadic Alzheimer disease or Down syndrome were not at variance with their age-matched controls. The decrease in the growth potential observed in the familial Alzheimer disease fibroblasts is however modest and needs confirmation. It is clear that the growth properties of skin fibroblasts, as examined in this study, do not provide a good marker for any form of Alzheimer disease, nor do they provide an appropriate in vitro system to study factors which may contribute to the etiopathogenesis of Alzheimer disease or Down syndrome.