A hallmark of Alzheimer disease is the build-up of amyloid plaques (toxic protein clumps) in the brain, but these have only been detectable by examining brains after death. In the April issue of Nature Neuroscience, Japanese scientists describe a new technique for seeing amyloid plaques in living brains using commonly available brain-scanning technology, an important step toward developing an early diagnostic test for this devastating disease.
Takaomi Saido and colleagues created a substance that would make amyloid plaques show up in brain scans by combining a form of fluorine, a common additive to drinking water, with a compound known to bind to amyloid. They injected this substance, called FSB, into the brains of mice genetically altered to express amyloid, which are often used as a model of Alzheimer disease. They scanned the mice using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a widely available technology in hospitals around the world, and were able to create images of their brains, with areas containing amyloid deposits highlighted. The authors confirmed that at the low doses they used, the compound did not cause toxic side effects.
Much work is still needed before such technology can be used to diagnose Alzheimer disease in human patients, but in the meantime, the authors say this is a valuable tool for experimental studies in mice. Because mice can be scanned repeatedly, the technology can be used to follow the progression of the disease across time, and to track the effectiveness of experimental drugs or treatments.
Takaomi Saido (RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Japan)
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Makoto Higuchi - co-author (RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Japan)
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Also available online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza