UCLA researchers used innovative brain scan technology to show that the abnormal brain protein deposits that define Alzheimer’s disease can be detected in mild cognitive impairment.
This study is the first to give a real time picture of the brain that identifies both of the major abnormal deposits of the disease in living people who may not develop Alzheimer’s for years to come.
The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with a small molecule invented at UCLA that binds to the abnormal proteins – amyloid plaques and tangles – that may cause the disease. Previously only an autopsy could determine these deposits and confirm a definitive diagnosis.
Study results found that the new method was able to track disease progression over a two-year period and was more effective in differentiating patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment from normal study subjects when compared to conventional imaging techniques.
Researchers are working with Siemens Medical to begin a clinical trial using this new molecular marker in order to obtain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval so that it will be available in the future for use by physicians with their patients.
Researchers performed PET brain scans after intravenously injecting the volunteers with the new chemical marker called FDDNP, the molecule that binds to the plaque and tangle deposits found in Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists found distinct differences among people with normal brain aging, patients with Alzheimer’s disease and people with mild cognitive impairment.