Mayo researchers invent targeted imaging probe to aid early Alzheimer's diagnosis

is made only on the basis of finding amyloid plaques during autopsy. Most Alzheimer's patients are tentatively diagnosed with the disease on the basis of behavioral evaluations.

The probe also may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of new Alzheimer's therapies that are now being designed to retard the development of the destructive brain lesions that are the hallmark of the disease. Amyloid plaques are abnormal buildups of proteins that interfere with brain communication and produce typical Alzheimer's symptoms. These include: deep and chronic forgetfulness, and loss of awareness.

The Experiment

The Mayo Clinic research team of neurologists, neuroscientists, biochemists and peptide synthesis specialists designed a derivative of the human amyloid-beta peptide (the molecule that contributes to plaque formation) to create a new kind of molecular probe. To test its targeting ability to find amyloid plaques in laboratory Alzheimer's disease mice, the researchers injected the probe it into the bloodstreams of the living mice.

The probe demonstrated the strong ability to bind to amyloid plaques in mice, increased permeability at the blood-brain barrier, and contrast enhancement in MRI scans.

Researchers also tested the probe in laboratory specimens of human Alzheimer's brains donated by families for biomedical research. While it behaved slightly differently in human brain specimens than in living mice, the probe's ability to label plaques was encouraging.

The Next Step

Further work in animal models must be carried out before the new probe could move to human trials. Says Dr. Poduslo: "While the present work underscores the development of this contrast agent for use in Alzheimer's disease, the biotechnology reported here may provide a general procedure for enhancing delivery of other diagnostic and therapeutic proteins across the blood-brain barrier for other neurodegenerative disorders as well."


Contact: Bob Nellis
Mayo Clinic

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