Marker Brings Hope for Accurate Dementia Diagnosis

US scientists have road tested a new approach to brain scanning, harnessing a marker which can help distinguish between Alzheimer’s and another type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia. The study, published in Neurology brings scientists one step closer to more accurate diagnosis of the various causes of dementia, which require markedly differing approaches to care and treatment.

The researchers from the University of California worked with 107 people with early onset Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia and used two different brain scan markers to try to accurately distinguish between the two types of dementia. The first of these markers – called FDG – gives a measure of how active different brain regions are, whereas a newer marker – PiB – binds directly to a hallmark Alzheimer’s protein called amyloid.

Although the currently available FDG marker could discriminate between Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, PiB could differentiate with a higher degree of sensitivity and accuracy when scans were visually scored. The hope is that this test could be used alongside other diagnostic techniques to give a more confident diagnosis of dementia.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“Being able to accurately diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is essential so that people can be given the appropriate care for their needs. An accurate diagnosis is also crucial for the success of clinical trials, which aim to find successful new treatments for dementia. Scientists are currently developing a number of different amyloid markers to boost diagnosis and this study highlights the potential they may hold in accurately diagnosing between different types of dementia.

“Getting an accurate dementia diagnosis can often be challenging and add extra worry and frustration for families and loved ones. With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, there is a desperate need for research into diagnostic techniques which will allow people to get the help and support that is specific for their diagnosis. We hope that further investment in research will allow the full potential of these markers to be revealed.”

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