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Exciting news for Alzheimer's treatment from new brain scan technique

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
A new brain scan developed by researchers can help diagnose Alzheimer's disease early and track treatment.

Dealing with Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating for patients, especially in early stages and for caregivers. Now researchers say they can track brain changes as they occur, which has never before been possible.

What that means is less guesswork about early diagnosis versus other causes of memory decline. It also means doctors can track the effect of treatment.

The new type of brain scan also means more research about Alzheimer’s disease is possible. Research scientists will have another tool to use for drug development and other interventions that can prevent or stave of the devastating disease, including nutrition or supplements.

Tracking Alzheimer’s disease was accomplished by Dr. Makoto Higuchi, a researcher and colleagues at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan.

The scientists developed fluorescent compounds that bind to tau proteins that entangle in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients causing memory loss.

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The fluorescent compounds made it possible for the scientist to see the proteins with PET scans that provide 3 dimensional images of the brain.

When they tested mice and humans, they were able to track changes in the brain that correlated with tau tangles and Alzheimer’s disease progression.

The disease can strike younger people, but primarily happens to those over age 65.

The disease is progressive and has no cure. Frailty accompanies the disease in its later stages, leading to high mortality rates from falls. Those with the disease have difficulty conversing and can’t describe symptoms of illness, pain or feeling poorly.

The scientists say the new type of PET imaging could also help with other neurological diseases like Parkinson’s.

The study, published in the journal Neuron, means new hope for the preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease that is the most common form of dementia.