Monday, July 19, 2010

New Scanning Technique May Lead the Way to Alzheimer Treatment

by Robin K. Wilson, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Director, Adult Hydrocephalus Center, Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute

Ever forget where you put your keys and worried for a moment that you’ve started to develop Alzheimer disease? A study presented at last week’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggests that a noninvasive imaging procedure using a PET scan and a new radioactive tracer called AV-45 (Avid Radiopharmaceutical, Inc.) may eventually allow your physician to check for the presence of amyloid - a protein that is associated with AD - before true symptoms of dementia develop.

Though the buildup of amyloid does not guarantee that a person will become cognitively impaired, this new technique may allow the detection and - eventually - treatment of cognitive changes before irreversible damage occurs.

AD is just one of many causes of dementia, and amyloid buildup is just one factor related to the progression of AD. Nevertheless, if some researchers design noninvasive procedures for finding early cognitive changes and other researchers develop medications that can reduce the speed of these changes, eventually it’s possible that your physician will be able to prescribe a medication that could slow the process of cognitive decline before you lose your car keys as well as your car.

Though most neurologists and geriatricians do not expect a “cure” for dementia in the near future, they recognize that slowing its progression and enabling patients to spend a few more years living independently can make a tremendous difference. The AV-45 tracer may help with this goal.

The Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute offers a full spectrum of specialty programs and provides comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic care for those with cognitive impairment and other neurologic disorders. For more information or an appointment, call 410-601-WELL (410-601-9355).

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