Alzheimer’s disease researchers are using bio-markers in blood and spinal fluid to provide a real-time observation window into the brain to identify deposits of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are considered to be the cause of the disease.
Researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) image to locate a small molecule that binds with the abnormal proteins amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (the molecule was invented at UCLA). Previously, an autopsy was the only way to determine if the existence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles were present to confirm a definitive diagnosis.
Once the newly developed molecule marker is injected into the patient it passes through the blood-brain barrier and ultimately binds to the plaque and tangle deposits found in Alzheimer’s patients. As seen in the photo, even subjects with mild cognitive impairment can be identified by the yellow colored areas.
Study results found that the new method was able to track disease progression over a two-year period and was more effective than conventional imaging techniques in differentiating patients with Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment from normal study subjects. It is hoped that this new tool will be developed for detecting pre-Alzheimer’s conditions so those patients at risk for developing the disease will be able to get early treatment.