A number of interesting - and exciting! - breakthroughs in Alzheimer's research were mentioned this week.
Alzheimer's Can Be Detected in Living People
First was news that the medical community now has guidelines for Brain Amyloid Imaging in Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association has been a major advocate in this realm, and they broke the news earlier this week that it's now possible to create high-quality images of the brain plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's disease in living people using PET scan images. This is big because until now, most cases of Alzheimer's could only be confirmed post-mortem. Until then, you or a loved one would be thought to have "probable Alzheimer's Disease."
According to a news release, "To provide guidance for physicians, individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s, and the public, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) and the Alzheimer’s Association have jointly published the first criteria for the appropriate use of this imaging technology to aid in the diagnosis of people with suspected Alzheimer’s disease. The criteria were published online today as an article “in press” by Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association and “ahead of print” in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
“Our primary goal is to provide healthcare practitioners with the information and options available to provide patients with the best possible diagnosis and care in a cost effective manner,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association vice president of Medical and Scientific Relations.
The scan is most likely to be used on people under 65 who complain of persistent or progressive unexplained memory problems or confusion and who demonstrate impairments using standard tests of cognition and memory. This is because it's still unusual for people in that category to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Those over 65 or displaying classic Alzheimer's symptoms are not likely candidates since the scan provides little value.
New Drug Target Identified for Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease
Science Daily reported that researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found the protein Klotho plays an important role in the health of myelin, the insulating material allowing for the rapid communication between nerve cells. These findings, which appear online in Journal of Neuroscience, may lead to new therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) and Alzheimer's disease (AD), in which white matter abnormalities are also common but have been largely ignored.
In other words, researchers can now devote more attention and research dollars to developing treatments that target this protein in the hopes of eventually preventing or mitigating Alzheimer's disease among those who develop "white matter abnormalities." These are parts of the brain that start to whither with age and with disease.