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Published on: July 13, 2014
by The Daily Mail:
A radioactive dye that highlights changes in the brain could help to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s in patients who have not yet displayed any symptoms.
Researchers have used the dye to track the build-up of plaque that is linked to dementia. It is hoped that spotting this early enough could allow doctors to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s before it takes hold.
The researchers, from Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina, tested 152 over-50s to see if they could predict cognitive decline by tracking changes in the brain.
Some participants had normal cognitive function at the start of the study, while others had recently been diagnosed with mild impairment, and a third group had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
After sitting cognitive tests, the participants were injected with the dye florbetapir – which binds to beta-amyloid plaque – before undergoing brain scans. They took the cognitive tests again three years later.
Participants with mild or no cognitive impairment whose brains contained the dementia-linked plaque at the start of the trial scored significantly worse when they took the tests a second time, compared with those whose scans were negative.
Patients with mild impairment and a build-up of plaque were also more than twice as likely to be prescribed medication to ward off dementia.
The research, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that 35 per cent of participants with the plaque who started off with mild impairment went on to develop Alzheimer’s, compared with 10 per cent of those whose scans were clear.
Lead author Dr Murali Doraiswamy said: ‘Our research found that healthy adults and those with mild memory loss who have a positive scan for these plaques have a much faster rate of decline on memory, language and reasoning over three years.’
In addition, a negative scan ‘could reassure people’ that their condition will not deteriorate in the near future.
Despite this, Dr Doraiswamy warned that the test would not be used widely before long-term studies to examine the consequences of beta-amyloid plaque, which affects between 15 to 30 per cent of older people.
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