Molecular Imaging to Have an Expanded Role in Fight Against Alzheimer's

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New molecular imaging research shows that the presence of beta-amyloid plaques that correlate with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease may also indicate mild cognitive decline.

Researchers presenting at the SNM annual meeting say that their findings can hopefully shorten the delay between flagging memory and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis without a formal presentation of dementia.

“When used as an adjunct to other diagnostic measures, molecular imaging can help lead to earlier diagnosis,” read an SNM statement accompanying the release. “This may give the patient several years to prepare for dementia while they still have control over their destiny.”

As many as 18 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—including half of all Americans aged 85 or older—a figure expected to hit 34 million in the next 13 years, according to the report.

Among the results: 45 people in the study were found to have an 80 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s within two years of taking the test. In these subjects, a PET imaging agent demonstrated atrophy of the hippocampus.

A second study used fMRI to show how amyloid build-up impairs the neural networks in the brain that manage wakeful rest and alertness, and thereby impairs cognitive performance. Yet another showed how the PET imaging agent C-11 PiB yields better amyloid pattern evaluations than does another, 18-F fluorodeoxyglucose (F-18 FDG).

Researchers hope molecular imaging studies like these will aid in the development of vaccines or palliative therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, which is presently incurable and effectively unpreventable.