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

he underlying cause of Alzheimer's disease. Extensive deposits of beta-amyloid are found throughout the brains of all patients with Alzheimer's disease," said Rowe.

Researchers at Austin Health's Centre for PET studied more than 150 subjects with PIB PET and a detailed battery of psychometric tests of memory and other brain functions. PET is a highly specialized, noninvasive imaging technique that uses short-lived radioactive substances to produce three-dimensional images of those substances functioning within the body. "We found that apparently normal elderly subjects with positive PIB PET scans do have mildbut significantreduction in memory test scores, and this is related to the amount of amyloid present," explained Rowe. He said that "excess" beta-amyloid is likely related to the fundamental cause of Alzheimer's disease, probably preceding cognitive decline by up to 10 years. Besides providing an accurate diagnosis of early Alzheimer's disease, this research is helpful in providing the possibility of early diagnosis and intervention for individuals who are minimally impaired, subject selection for anti-beta-amyloid clinical trials and monitoring of the effectiveness of anti-beta-amyloid treatments, said Rowe.

"Additionally, 20 percent of the normal volunteers in our study whose average age was 72 had a positive scan. In subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)a condition that leads to Alzheimer's dementia in about 60 percent of caseswe found positive scans in 60 percent of the subjects. The amount of amyloid present, measured by the PIB scan, related to the severity of memory impairment in these subjects," said Rowe. "Importantly, we and other researchers using PIB PET have also observed that by the time dementia has developedand a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be made by a clinicianthe decline in cognitive function then continues without a further increase in amyloid, highlighting the need for early intervention and prevention of
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Contact: Maryann Verrillo
mverrillo@snm.org
703-652-6773
Society of Nuclear Medicine
4-Jun-2007


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