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Non-Invasive Brain Scan And Blood Test Are Future Candidates To Assess Risk And Monitor Progression Of Alzheimer’s Disease

January 24, 2011

BrightFocus Foundation

It is complicated to predict the risk for healthy individuals to develop dementia. If an individual does experience a problem with memory and brain function, it is difficult to determine whether it is Alzheimer's disease. Two studies published in the January 19, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) describe methods developed to detect a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease—beta-amyloid protein—in the brain and blood. Both tests are not commercially available, but are important breakthroughs in the push for early detection and monitoring of this debilitating disease.

The first study, by Christopher M. Clark, M.D. of Philadelphia-based Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, used a dye, called Florbetapir, that binds beta-amyloid protein and pinpoints plaques with a brain-imaging machine (PET scanner). This is an important discovery, because detection of amyloid plaques in the brain and confirmation of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease normally is done by autopsy after death.The data was recently reviewed by FDA and put on hold until physicians are provided with a training program assuring that they can accurately and consistently interpret the brain scans that use Florbetapir.

Once the technique is refined and accepted by the FDA, this test could be used to predict the risk of developing the disease and to determine whether an individual would be a good candidate for enrollment in an Alzheimer's disease clinical trial.

The second study—conducted by Kristine Yaffe, M.D. of the University of California, San Francisco, the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues—showed that low blood levels of beta-amyloid protein fragments, called beta-amyloid 42/40, indicate increased risk for the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's. If a test is eventually offered on the market, it could give more time for intervention and prevention of cognitive decline. This is important in light of another finding from the study: fewer years of formal education and lower levels of literacy indicate a greater risk of dementia. Though our funding did not cover this study, BrightFocus supports Dr. Yaffe for separate research examining the link between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

For more detailed information on these important discoveries, please view the following press releases:

You may also read more about the decision made by the FDA advisory committee at cbsnews.com, and view the advisory meeting briefing document on the FDA website.

View all news updates for Alzheimer's disease


Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we take efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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