The BBC News reported on Wednesday that a new brain scan may be able to detect the early signs of Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan have developed an imaging technique that they believe can detect the physical brain changes that occur as Alzheimer's develops. Their study has been published in the recent issue of Neuron and has huge implications in the on-going research surrounding the devastating neurological disease.
The brains of people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease often show physical damage, including clusters of built-up proteins called beta amyloid and tau proteins. The imaging technology targets the tau proteins in particular as tau proteins are often the cause of the memory loss associated with the disease.
Dr. Makoto Higuchi led the study which developed fluorescent compounds that bind to tau proteins, allowing for the proteins to be picked on positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Dr. Higuchi and his team of researchers administered the test to mice and humans and received promising results. They were able to correlate the spread of the tau proteins within a brain to other signs of Alzheimer's disease progression.
The results of the study are of great significance. If a scan could track the progression of the tau proteins, doctors would be able to diagnose the disease earlier and ensure that treatments were working properly. The new imaging concept has the potential to diagnose other neurological conditions, like Parkinson's disease, as well. Currently, the only definitive test for Alzheimer's disease can be performed after a person has died from the disease.