Biomarkers Laboratory

The biomarkers laboratory will be engaged in real time collection of biologicals from patients and family members attending the Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases clinic site.  The laboratory is dedicated to promoting true translational research including blood, saliva, cerebrospinal fluid, skin and GI samples.  There is a full biomarkers laboratory onsite for processing and the samples will support translational research efforts across the campus.  The efforts will support all areas and domains of research and include neurogenetics.

nikolaus mcfarland

Nikolaus McFarland M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Biomarkers Laboratory

More Information on Biomarkers

Faculty Supporting Biomarker Collection

todd goldeTodd Golde, MD, PhDNeuroscience
KhoshboueiHabibeh Khoshbouei, PhDNeuroscience
lavoieMatthew LaVoieNeurology
Catherine PriceCatherine Price, PhD, ABBP-CNNeuropsychology
prokopStefan Prokop, M.DPathology and Laboratory Medicine
adolfo ramirez-zamoraAdolfo Ramirez-Zamora, MDNeurology
ranumLaura Ranum, PhD.Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
TanseyMalu Tansey, Ph.D.Neuroscience
wymerJames Wymer, M.D., PhD.Neurology

About the Lab

Biomarkers refers to “biological markers” that include a broad array of clinical signs that can be objectively measured or evaluated and that provide information about normal biology or a disease process such as aging or neurodegeneration. Biomarkers include almost anything measureable that represents a biological system, be it functional, physiological, biochemical or molecular (at the cell level). Examples include blood pressure, gait measures, brain or spine imaging, basic lab tests or more complex studies of blood or other tissues. The use of biomarkers and laboratory techniques to measure and analyze samples is rapidly expanding. At the UF Health Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases, we want to be on the forefront of biomarker collection and technologies. Patients can opt to participate at many levels and provide samples in clinic to help advance clinical research into disease, as well as to understand successful, healthy aging.

What do we collect?

The Biomarkers laboratory at the UF Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases focuses on collection of tissue samples and correlation with other disease markers such as brain imaging, physiological tests, and even neuropathology. Patients at the Center may opt to participate in clinical research studies to identify markers of disease, risk, and progression. Tissue samples include:

  • Blood – includes red blood cells, immune cells, fibroblasts, plasma and serum
  • DNA, RNA, proteins – extracted from cells, tissue, or blood
  • CSF – cerebrospinal spinal fluid collected from lumbar puncture (i.e., “spinal tap”)
  • Skin fibroblasts, muscle, hair follicles
  • Saliva – mouth wash or swab
  • GI samples – colonic microbiota
  • Postmortem brain donation – neuropathology

What we use it for

Biomarkers are increasingly used to help with (early) diagnosis, in predicting outcomes or prognosis, and even for risk assessment (for example: will I get disease or develop dementia?). Biomarkers can also be used to track response to a therapeutic intervention such as a drug or new device. Here at the Fixel Institute, we collect a multitude of biomarkers. Blood samples, for instance, contain a wealth of information. Peripheral blood cells can provide information on inflammation, disease, and the overall health of an individual. Genetic information can likewise be extracted from blood, skin, or mucosal cells (from saliva) and studied to determine information about your health, disease, and to identify factors that may increase or reduce your risk for disease. From the cells and fluids in blood (plasma/serum) and other tissues we can also study protein and immune markers. GI samples on the other hand provide information on our gut microbiota, the helpful bacteria that live in our gut. Researchers, including those at UF, are keenly interested in the gut microbiota and changes as result of environmental factors and disease. Changes in gut microbiota may provide a window into disease and inflammation that in turn affects our nervous system.

Postmortem brain tissue plays a special role in understanding disease. Understanding human disease requires studying pathology which cannot be wholly done in model systems such as cells or animals. Brain tissue provides a unique view into the pathophysiology of disease. At UF we carefully analyze brain tissue samples obtained through our Neuromedicine Brain & Tissue Bank/Alzheimer Disease Research Center and provide families with neuropathology results. Tissue samples are used by researchers to study neuropathology in hopes of unlocking disease mechanisms.

What we have collected so far

The Fixel Institute biomarker collection is rapidly growing and includes blood, CSF, and saliva samples, and postmortem brain tissue. Tissue samples have been collected among several neurological diseases such as Parkinson disease, Atypical Parkinson disorders (e.g. Progressive supranuclear palsy), Huntington disease, Alzheimer disease and other dementias, ALS/neuromuscular disorders, and more.

Where are samples stored?

Biomarker samples collected in clinic are stored securely either in the Fixel Institute (often temporarily before processing), the Neuromedicine Brain & Tissue Bank or the Center for Neurogenetics located on the main UF College of Medicine campus.

Who has access to my samples?

Tissue samples will be made available by request to approved clinicians and researchers working on translational studies to understand neurological disease and healthy aging. While the primary purpose of the laboratory is to support UF researchers, we encourage outside collaborators and efforts to identify critical biomarkers.

How do I get involved?

Patients and family members at the Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases will be provided an opportunity to participate in research efforts and sample collection for various studies. We encourage those interested supporting our efforts to let your provider know and ask questions about our Biomarker Laboratory program. For more information on brain/tissue donation see the following links: