Tags: Health Topics | Alzheimer’s | Amyloid Plaques | Protein Plaques | Elderly

New Test Detects Early Alzheimer's

New Test Detects Early Alzheimer's


By    |   Monday, 07 November 2016 03:52 PM

Researchers have developed a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer's — and it's a far better early detector. The chemical detects much smaller protein plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, making early detection possible. So far tests have been done on mice, but an application for human studies has already been submitted for approval.

The chemical, called Fluselenamyl, was developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Their results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The protein plaques associated with Alzheimer's, amyloid plaques, are one of the most visible signs in the brains of people with the disease. The neurons near these protein plaques are often dead or damaged, and this loss of brain cells is thought to be responsible for the ensuing memory loss and confusion experienced by Alzheimer's patients.

These plaques can appear loose or in packs. The compact kind has long been associated with the disease, and the more loose plaques were thought to be benign, since they can be found in the brains of elderly people without any symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. But lead researcher Vijay Sharma, Ph.D., a professor of radiology, neurology and biomedical engineering, and the study's senior author, is among doctors who believe even loose plaques are indicative of Alzheimer's — in fact, they believe the plaques mark the earliest stages of the disease.

The problem with identifying the compact forms of plaque is that they appear after brains have already been significantly damaged. The new chemical detects the loose form of these plaques — before significant damage. This could pave the way for better treatment options.

"It is a relatively underexplored area in the development of Alzheimer's pathology," Sharma said. "Since current approved agents don't detect diffuse plaques, there is no reliable noninvasive imaging tool to investigate this aspect in animal models or in patients. Our compound could be used to study the role of diffuse plaques."

Using human amyloid beta proteins, Sharma's team showed that Fluselenamyl bound to the proteins up to 10 times better than any of the current FDA-approved methods. Fluselenamyl detected much smaller clumps of the protein, indicating that it may be able to detect the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease earlier.

To make their determination, the researchers used the compound to stain brain slices from people who had died of Alzheimer's disease and, as controls, people of similar ages who had died of other causes. The brain slices from the Alzheimer's patients, but not the controls, were identified as containing plaques.

"A huge obstacle with existing state-of-the-art agents approved for plaque detection is that they tend to bind indiscriminately to the brain's white matter, which creates false positives on the scans," Sharma said. A similar experiment comparing mice genetically predisposed to the plaques with normal control mice showed the same pattern of high sensitivity for the plaques and low binding to healthy white matter. When the team injected Fluselenamyl into mice, the compound was shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, bind to any plaques in their brains and was detected by PET scans. In mice without plaques, the compound was flushed from the brain and excreted from their bodies.

Testing in human patients is next. Sharma already has submitted an application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a Phase 0 trial, which involves a low dose given to a small number of people to learn how it will be processed in the body and how it affects the body.

"Ideally, we'd like to look at patients with very mild symptoms who are negative for Alzheimer's by PET scan to see if we can identify them using Fluselenamyl," Sharma said. "One day, we may be able to use Fluselenamyl as part of a screening test to identify segments of the population that are going to be at risk for development of Alzheimer's disease."





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Researchers have developed a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer's — and it's a far better early detector. The chemical detects much smaller protein plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, making early detection possible.
Alzheimer’s, Amyloid Plaques, Protein Plaques, Elderly
Monday, 07 November 2016 03:52 PM
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