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New Brain ‘Tag’ Allows Better Observation of Alzheimer’s Progress

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By Deborah Cooper • • June 22, 2000

An important new technique that allows changes in Alzheimer patients brain tissues to be closely monitored may result in drug therapies more closely tailored to the individual’s progression of the disease.

Until now, doctors have had little to go on when determining the subtle results of treatment. Amyloid plaques thought to be responsible for the breakdown of neurons in Alzheimer’s patients do not show up well with other imaging methods such as X-rays, preventing a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, a positive diagnosis can only be achieved with an autopsy.

Scientists often learn a lot about the body’s processes by using molecules that carry a radioactive tag. The new tag, called a BSB, shows up like a dye when injected into the bloodstream. It is small enough to cross the brain’s natural filter, the blood brain barrier, where it then attaches itself to the waxy plaques deposited on the brain.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reported the development of the new tag in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Their findings will greatly add to knowledge of this disease’s processes and give enormous significance to create successful diagnostic methods.

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