A new brain imaging method can show the spread of specific protein depositions, which are unique to Alzheimer’s disease.
A new imaging test from Lund University in Sweden may be able to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, reports Science Daily.
Getting a proper diagnosis can be difficult with dementia conditions. A range of conditions can cause similar symptoms, and pinning it down to the specific disease can take a long time. Alzheimer’s disease, however, is very different from other forms of dementia. There are specific interventions that may work in one form of dementia over others, and knowing which form the patient has can help apply treatment as early as possible.
Alzheimer’s is linked with two known proteins: beta-amyloid and tau. Beta-amyloid proteins are responsible for the formation of plaque, while tau forms tangles. Both the plaque and tangles are signatures of Alzheimer’s disease, but beta-amyloid begins its insidious spread decades before the patient notices any sign of the disease.
Tau, on the other hand, beings its spread much later. That’s around when the neurons start dying and the first symptoms crop up.
“If we scan a patient with memory difficulties and he or she proves to have a lot of tau in the brain, we know with a high degree of certainty that it is a case of Alzheimer’s,” said senior researcher Rik Ossenkoppele.
In his study, recently published in Journal of the American Medical Association, Ossenkoppele and his team scanned the brains of over 700 patients. Using injected tau marker and a PET scanner, the researchers were clearly able to see tau on the resulting images.
The study found that this imaging technique has high sensitivity and specificity. In up to 95 percent of cases, it detected Alzheimer’s disease, with only a few false positives. The new method is more accurate than MRI, as well as a previous method of scanning for beta-amyloid using a PET scanner.
“The method works very well. I believe it will be applied clinically all over the world in only a few years,” said Oskar Hansson, another author of the study.
Because there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, getting an early and accurate diagnosis is key for maintaining your health as long as possible.