SEP 25, 2015 2:44 PM PDT

Detecting Alzheimer's Early

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Amyloid PET imaging boosts early detection of Alzheimer's disease.A new study done at Sweden’s Lund University, which the researchers claimed to be “the most thorough and extensive undertaken in the field so far,” has demonstrated that a method for detecting early signs of Alzheimer’s disease using amyloid PET imaging works as well as the previously used cerebrospinal fluid sample method.
 
According to the researchers, the most commonly used methods for investigating early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the Swedish public healthcare system include a variety of cognitive memory tests and computed tomography. For the past few years, it has also been possible to perform an analysis of a cerebrospinal fluid sample, which boosts the chances of early detection. Thus far, only patients in memory clinics have been offered the test, the researchers said in an article in Drug Discovery & Development
 
Recently, a method called amyloid PET was approved for clinical use in Sweden. Clinicians administer a special substance that binds to a protein in the brain, beta-amyloid, to the patient. This substance is used as a marker for Alzheimer’s changes, which are subsequently mapped with PET imaging. There have been differences of opinions about whether cerebrospinal fluid samples or PET imaging would be the best methodology for detecting early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
 
According to Sebastian Palmqvist, MD, PhD, at Lund University, “In the study, both the cerebrospinal fluid sample and the amyloid PET scans were able to identify approximately 90 per cent of the patients who would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s later on. Our conclusion is therefore that the two methods work equally well to achieve this aim. One can thus choose the method on the basis of cost, expertise or patient preference.”
 
The Swedish researchers believe that both methods are also good at identifying which individuals are healthy and unlikely to develop Alzheimer’s disease within the next ten years. Nonetheless, when the diagnosis is reached without reference to a cerebrospinal fluid sample or amyloid PET imaging, its accuracy can drop to 60 to 70 percent, they said. Late detection of Alzheimer’s disease impacts today’s healthcare, as well as the development of future treatments.
 
“Previous drug trials to evaluate new treatments for the presence of amyloid in Alzheimer’s cases failed, partly because treatment began too late in the course of the disease. With two accurate tools for early diagnosis, we can identify suitable participants at an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. This will considerably increase the chances of being able to prove a positive effect for new drugs”, concludes Oskar Hansson, associate professor and neurologist at Lund University.
About the Author
Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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