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X-rays for early Alzheimer's disease detection
Date:6/16/2009

UPTON, NY Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have demonstrated a new, highly detailed x-ray imaging technique that could be developed into a method for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The technique has previously been used to look at tumors in breast tissue and cartilage in human knee and ankle joints, but this study is the first to test its ability to visualize a class of miniscule plaques that are a hallmark feature of Alzheimer's disease. Their results will appear in a July 2009 edition of the journal NeuroImage.

Images of the brain of a transgenic mouse obtained through histology and the corresponding brain region imaged with DEI in computed tomography mode. Scientists have long known that Alzheimer's disease is associated with plaques, areas of dense built-up proteins, in the affected brain. Many also believe that these plaques, called amyloid beta (A) plaques after the protein they contain, actually cause the disease. A major goal is to develop a drug that removes the plaques from the brain. However, before drug therapies can be tested, researchers need a non-invasive, safe, and cost-effective way to track the plaques' number and size.

That is no easy task: A plaques are extremely small on the micrometer scale, or one millionth of a meter. And conventional techniques such as computed tomography (CT) poorly distinguish between the plaques and other soft tissue such as cartilage or blood vessels.

"These plaques are very difficult to see, no matter how you try to image them," said Dean Connor, a former postdoctoral researcher at Brookhaven Lab now working for the University of North Carolina. "Certain methods can visualize the plaque load, or overall number of plaques, which plays a role in clinical assessment and analysis of drug efficacy. But these methods cannot provide the resolution needed to show us the properties of individual A plaques."

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Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@bnl.gov
631-344-8191
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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