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Brain imaging may allow Alzheimer's diagnosis
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 11 - 08 - 2008


An imaging method known as a
PET scan may enable doctors to determine whether a person has
"plaques" in the brain that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's
disease, according to a Finnish study published on Monday, Reuters reported.
The brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease
contains abnormal clumps called amyloid plaques, but generally
doctors cannot be sure if they are there until the brain is
examined after death in an autopsy.
The findings of the small study led by Dr. Ville Leinonen
of the University of Kuopio in Finland indicated that positron
emission tomography, or PET, imaging can detect the plaques.
This shows PET scans may become a useful tool to diagnose
Alzheimer's disease, a fatal and uncurable mind-robbing ailment
that is the most common form of dementia in the elderly,
Leinonen said.
"It's very promising," Leinonen, whose study was published
in the American Medical Association's journal Archives of
Neurology, said in a telephone interview.
Experts have been seeking ways to detect the plaques, short
of obtaining a sample of brain tissue, in order to diagnose
Alzheimer's in its early stages. These plaques and irregular
knots of fibers in the brain called neurofibrillary tangles are
hallmarks of the disease.
Early diagnosis can allow doctors to give people with
Alzheimer's disease drugs aimed at slowing the cognitive
decline associated with the condition.
The study involved 10 people, all of whom had undergone a
brain biopsy because of a suspected abnormal increase of
cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.
By examining this brain tissue, the researchers determined
that six of the people had Alzheimer's disease-related plaques
in their brain and four had no such brain changes.
The patients later underwent a 90-minute PET scan.
Following an injection of a chemical "marker" intended to
help pinpoint the brain plaques, the PET scans accurately
determined in nine of the 10 people who had the plaques and who
did not, the researchers said.
"It's not 100 percent, but the correlation was very good,"
Leinonen said.
None of the 10 people in the study had yet developed severe
dementia at the time of the study, the researchers said. They
said larger studies are needed to verify that PET scans can
become a common diagnostic tool.
The researchers said another potential use of PET scans
would be to monitor plaque deposits in the brains of people
taking part in research into potential new Alzheimer's drugs to
see if the drugs are working.
PET scans currently are used by doctors to detect cancer,
cardiac problems such as damage following a heart attack, brain
abnormalities and other purposes.
Other studies have hinted at the promise of imaging methods
in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. Canadian researchers said
last month they used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans
to locate Alzheimer's-like plaques in rabbits.
An estimated 26 million people have Alzheimer's globally
and experts predict this number will grow to 106 million by
2050.


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