Brain Imaging Probe Offers Hope for Early Alzheimer’s Detection

Scientists in the US have developed a brain imaging ‘probe’ that may help detect Alzheimer’s in the very earliest stages of the disease. The probe works by binding to a protein called amyloid, a key feature of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois developed the probe using an antibody that binds to amyloid, which is known to clump together in the brain and become toxic during Alzheimer’s. The researchers then combined this antibody with magnetic nanoparticles that show up during MRI scans.

Current brain scanning techniques can detect amyloid in the brain once it has formed into large, sticky plaques, but the researchers hope their new probe will help detect the toxic form of amyloid before these plaques have formed, potentially identifying people with Alzheimer’s at a much earlier stage. The scientists aim to develop a way of delivering the probe – which has so far been tested in the lab and in rodents – using a nasal spray.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“Though not yet published in full, this early study suggests that more sensitive brain scans capable of picking up Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear could be possible. It’s likely that new treatments will have the best chance of success if given early, and early detection will be vital for identifying the right people to take part in clinical trials. This particular probe has not yet been tested in people, so it remains to be seen how effective this method might be.

“With half a million people affected by Alzheimer’s, we still lack a treatment that can stop the disease in its tracks. New treatments can only come from research, and we must invest in research if we are to bring hope to those affected by the disease.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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