TUESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- New research adds to the
growing pile of scientific strategies aimed at revealing
beta-amyloid (protein) plaques, the brain-clogging fragments that
have been associated with Alzheimer's disease.
In a study funded by Bayer Healthcare Berlin, researchers report
that they were able to use a drug and PET scans to successfully
detect plaques in the brains of patients whose Alzheimer's was
confirmed after death.
More than 200 patients near death -- including some with
apparent Alzheimer's disease -- underwent the PET scans. They
received doses of the drug florbetaben, which was used as a
"tracer" to allow the PET scans to detect the plaques.
Thirty-one patients died and had autopsies to confirm that they
had Alzheimer's disease. The researchers determined that one way of
interpreting the PET scan results correctly pinpointed Alzheimer's
disease 100 percent of the time and correctly ruled it out 92
percent of the time.
"These results confirm that florbetaben is able to detect beta-amyloid plaques in the brain during life with great accuracy and is a suitable biomarker," study author Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, director of Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Ariz., said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.
"This is an easy, noninvasive way to assist an Alzheimer's diagnosis at an early stage. Also exciting is the possibility of using florbetaben as a tool in future therapeutic clinical research studies where therapy goals focus on reducing levels of beta-amyloid in the brain," Sabbagh added.
Dr. William Jagust, a professor of neuroscience at the
University of California, Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience
Institute, said several companies are developing ways to detect
beta-amyloid plaques. "It's a very important development in our
field," he said. "The big practical question is how much is this
going to cost -- it may cost $2,000 or more to get a scan -- and
whether it is worth it considering what we can do for such
There's no cure for Alzheimer's and no way to reverse it,
although drugs are available to treat symptoms. Still, Jagust said,
detecting beta-amyloids may be helpful as a way to determine
whether experimental drugs actually work.
The study is slated for presentation at the American Academy of
Neurology's annual meeting, which starts April 21 in New
The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about
Alzheimer's disease, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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