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FDA Approves Brain Scan to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s being hailed as a medical breakthrough: scientists have discovered a way to use a PET brain scan to detect the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease as early as twenty years before any symptoms arise.

Currently, the only way to accurately diagnosis Alzheimer’s is posthumously, via autopsy.  But an innovative new brain scan will make it possible to detect the warning signs, clusters of proteins called amyloid plaque, and begin the process of treating the disease immediately.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a radioactive dye called Amyvid is used as a magnet for amyloid plaque; once injected into the arm it attaches itself to the destructive protein. High levels of Amyvid, when picked up on a PET scan, indicate a strong likeliness that somebody will develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

While having a high level of Amyvid does not guarantee the presence of Alzheimer’s- approximately 30% of subjects with high Amyvid will never develop any form of dementia- low Amyvid levels may be used to negate that possibility.

Scientists have also linked a correlation between vitamin b12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease. A Finnish study which followed 271 senior citizens found that elderly test subjects with sufficiently high levels of vitamin b12 and proportionately low traces of homocysteine (an amino acid linked to dementia, stroke and heart disease) were the least likely of all to suffer Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss, misplacing everyday objects, tendency to wander
  • Mood swings, paranoia, aggression, childlike behavior
  • Lack of decision-making ability
  • Difficulty managing financial transactions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Disassociation from formerly enjoyable pastimes
  • Loss of motor skills, difficulty dressing oneself
  • Inattention to personal hygiene
  • Repetitive speech

B12 deficiency is common among the aging; physicians recommend a regular regimen of vitamin b12 supplementation in order to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or diminish the symptoms where dementia has already been established.

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2 Responses to “FDA Approves Brain Scan to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. Len Hudyma Says:

    More Info on Alzheimers Testing

    Diagnostic Breakthrough Promises Early Detection Of Alzheimer’s Disease Article Date: 25 Jan 2011 – Medical News Today
    Canadian researchers have taken the first step towards a major breakthrough in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Mississauga, Ontario-based Amorfix Life Sciences Ltd. has announced that it has developed a new diagnostic test that is able to measure clumped protein fragments, called aggregated beta amyloid, in human cerebral spinal fluid which may indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s disease and will make it easier to accurately diagnose the disease.

    Currently, the only definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s is a post-mortem examination of brain tissue to identify the presence of the proteins that lead to plaque formation around neurons in the brain, believed to cause the symptoms of the disease. The Amorfix test is conducted on the cerebral spinal fluid from living patients, representing a significant step forward in early detection and subsequent treatment of the disease.
    “Our hope is to one day be able to use this test on patients showing early signs of dementia in order to predict which patients may progress rapidly into the disease and which may not,” said Dr. Robert Gundel, Amorfix president and chief executive officer, noting that the early diagnosis of a disease typically means a better outcome. “Being able to accurately determine who has the disease will also facilitate new research in the area and will greatly enhance the quality of clinical trials for new treatments being developed,” he said.
    Preliminary results suggest that the company’s newly-developed biochemical test can detect the presence of the aggregated beta amyloid in the cerebral spinal fluid which is collected when investigating patients for Alzheimer’s. The next step is to optimize the test for commercialization by comparing hundreds of spinal fluid samples from patients with the disease to those from age-matched individuals without the disease.
    The first application of the test will be in the area of research, where it could be used to more effectively screen patients who participate in clinical trials. The current methodology to test for Alzheimer’s includes cognitive testing of memory and can have as much as a 30 to 35 per cent false positive result, says Gundel. “That means clinicians are potentially enrolling a significant number of subjects in their studies who don’t really have the disease they are trying to treat and that makes it very difficult to determine how well your drug is working,” he said. “An accurate diagnostic test like the one we’re developing can dramatically facilitate research and development efforts and hopefully get new treatments out on the market sooner at a lower cost.”
    Alzheimer’s disease currently affects more than five million people across North America and that number is expected to grow as the population of baby boomers ages. The breakthrough by Amorfix represents an important milestone in furthering the early detection and subsequent treatment of the disease. The company is also working on a project to take the same biochemical test and adapt it to measure the same substance in a patient’s blood.
    “That’s the holy grail,” said Gundel. “Because then it’s just a simple blood test which would totally revolutionize the way the disease is diagnosed and treated. We have already been able to measure aggregated beta amyloid in the plasma of a number of animal models used for Alzheimer’s disease preclinical research which helps pave the way for the development of a test for humans.
    Source: Amorfix Life Sciences Ltd.

  2. Phyllis Manning Says:

    Our 54-year old daughter was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers disease at Mayo Clinic on June 30, 2009.

    She had an MRI and a PET scan at the University of Minnesota, and a doctor at Mayo Clinic confirmed that she indeed has Alzheimers. But the diagnosis is only from mental and physical examinations. In the 2+ years since her diagnosis, this test has advanced knowledge enough that perhaps suspected patients would not have to go through the many tests that our daughter was submitted to.

    Hopefully, this will aid in the treatment of Alzheimers, but I am waiting for a treatment to prevent this dread disease.

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