What causes Alzheimer's? Researchers tie beta-amyloids to brain dysfunction

WASHINGTON, D.C.Researchers tied the accumulation of the toxic brain protein beta-amyloid to Alzheimer's disease, according to a study reported at the 54th Annual Meeting of SNM, the world's largest society for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine professionals.

"Our findings show that beta-amyloid is associated with brain dysfunctioneven in apparently normal elderly individualsproviding further evidence that it is likely related to the fundamental cause of Alzheimer's disease," said Christopher Rowe, director of the nuclear medicine department and Centre for PET at Austin Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Additionally, in using agent PIB (Pittsburgh Compound B) and positron emission tomography (PET), researchers "demonstrated that PIB PET is able to detect the early pathological changes of Alzheimer's disease long before the development of dementia," he indicated. "Trials of anti-amyloid drugs are underway. If these prove successful, amyloid imaging will have a vital role in identifying those in need of treatment to prevent the development of Alzheimer's dementia," added Rowe.

Alzheimer's diseasea progressive, irreversible brain disorderis a formidable opponent with no known cause or cure. More than 4.5 million Americans are thought to have this disease that attacks and slowly steals the minds of its victims. Alzheimer's impacts every nation where life expectancy has increased; estimates indicate that there are now 18 million people worldwide with the disease.

One of the hallmarks of the always-fatal disease is the accumulation of protein amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain. Beta-amyloid is a protein fragment that normally is broken down and eliminated in a healthy brain. With Alzheimer's, these fragments form hard, insoluble plaques. Prior to the development of PIB and use of PET imaging, the presence of plaque could be confirmed only during autopsy. "Buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain is thought to be t

Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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