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University of Pittsburgh imaging agent study suggests breakthrough in Alzheimer's research

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 21 Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in collaboration with researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden, have laid the groundwork for a new era in Alzheimer's disease (AD) research by completing the first human study of a compound that, through positron emission tomography (PET), enables them to peer into the brains of people with the memory-stealing illness and see the telltale plaque deposits they believe are at the root of the disease.

Alzheimer's is a debilitating brain disease that affects memory and cognitive function in approximately 4 million Americans today and, if unchecked, will strike as many as 14 million during the next 50 years. The distinguishing factor between AD and other dementias is the formation of a protein substance called beta-amyloid, or amyloid plaque, that is believed to contribute to the death of brain cells.

Results of the study were chosen for rapid publication online in the early view section of Annals of Neurology.

According to the researchers, creation of the compound, dubbed Pittsburgh Compound B (PIB), is a significant development that may provide long-sought answers to questions of how the disease begins and grows, as well as contribute to a better understanding of how effective new drug therapies are at preventing, delaying or treating AD.

"PIB has given us a new tool to view the amount of amyloid in the brains of living Alzheimer's disease patients," said William E. Klunk, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-inventor of PIB. "Using PIB, we will likely be able to follow the progression of the disease and speed the development of promising new therapies aimed at halting the build-up of amyloid in the brain."

Alzheimer's disease, like stroke, is a significant cause of dementia in people over the age of 65. But unlike stroke, which begins with a single event, there is no way for doct
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Contact: Craig Dunhoff
DunhoffCC@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
21-Jan-2004


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