Scientists have discovered a medical technique for predicting Alzheimer’s disease — years before serious symptoms emerge.
In the new study, US scientists discovered a brain scan that could predict how Alzheimer’s disease will develop after a major breakthrough was recorded at the University of California, San Francisco.
The findings, reported in Science Translational Medicine, showed how the use of recently developed positron emission tomography (PET) tracer for visualizing and quantifying pathological tau protein tangles in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients could predict the location of future brain atrophy a year or more in advance.
The discovery, the scientists said, could birth better drugs and a screening programme for those at risk of the disease as current therapies only treat the symptoms.
“Our study supports the notion that tau pathology accumulates upstream of brain tissue loss and clinical symptoms,” said Gil Rabinovici, a professor and co-author of the research from the University of California.
According to Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK: “The ability to track tau in the brain will be critical for testing treatments designed to prevent the protein causing damage, and the scans used in this study could be an important tool for future clinical trials.”
The breakthrough comes after they had reached their conclusion on the importance of tau following a tracking of 32 patients — aged between 49 and 83 — who were in the early stages of showing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
While the study doubles as the first to test if tau levels can predict future Alzheimer’s, the PET scan is coming on the back of an injectable molecule — flortaucipir — which was developed to help detect tau clumps.
It is believed that flortaucipir is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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