Alzheimers Disease Imagining May Improve Treatments

Researchers prove the accuracy of tau PET imagining for Alzheimer’s disease.

A new brain imagining technique may lead to expanded drug development possibilities for Alzheimer’s disease due to its accuracy.

A recent study published by Brain finds that tau PET imaging shows a higher degree of brain changes. The imaging is able to determine which areas of the brain have the highest concentration of the tau protein, which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other researchers have found that this protein, tau, carries nutrients and other necessary materials inside brain cells and neurons. However, when this protein malfunctions and becomes toxic, it tangles and stops transporting materials, which leads to cell death.

The toxic tau protein is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, as are beta-amyloid plaques. The novel tau PET imaging shows the presence of tau through use of a gamma camera and a radioactive model (F-AV-1451), according to the current study.

This method shows changes more accurately than other available imagining techniques. Many researchers have studied the tau PET method, but how well it captures changes in the brain was previously unknown.

Through the study, the current researchers have confirmed that the method is very accurate. For the first time, they were able to compare the tau PET images with brain tissue from the same person.

Researchers acquired the brain tissue from a patient who died and had recently underwent imaging.

“The person who was examined had a mutation which led to the same type of accumulation of tau in the brain as in Alzheimer's disease,” said Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD. “A single case study might seem insignificant, but since there are areas with a lot of tau stored and others with less tau in the same brain, it is sufficient to examine 1 person in order to verify whether the imaging method works.”

Interest in tau imaging methods as a way to create new treatments for the disease has increased recently. An accurate reproduction of the protein in the brain is a better marker and diagnostic tool than any currently used, according to the study.

Researchers now plan to track groups of tau over time and their connections with diagnostics in spinal fluid.

This imaging technique could also be used in other neurological diseases such as frontal lobe dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration, according to the study.

"Tau PET can improve diagnostics, but above all, the imaging method can be of great significance in the development of new drugs to combat Alzheimer's disease,” said researcher Ruben Smith, MD, PhD. “There are new candidate drugs which aim to reduce the accumulation of tau. The imaging method opens up opportunities to investigate the development of the disease at a detailed level, and to observe how tau aggregates are affected by the drugs.”