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Number of Patients With Dementia on the Rise
Date:7/6/2009

archers at the MADRC have so far studied 80 patients in a project that has been going on for four years on the diagnosis of Alzheimer's at the earliest sign of cognitive dysfunction. Researchers would ultimately like to evaluate 120.

One of the goals of the research is to determine the best tool for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease: PET scans or clinical evaluations. In addition to Alzheimer's disease, there are other possible diagnoses with early onset cognitive impairment, including multiple strokes, frontotemporal dementia, corticobasal degeneration, and the cognitive disorder associated with Parkinson's disease, which is termed dementia with Lewy bodies.

"The earliest possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease would be to the patient's greatest advantage," Gilman says.

PET, or positron emission tomography, is an imaging study that allows doctors to evaluate the use of certain substances by the brain. Normally, the brain uses glucose as a fuel. Using PET scans, doctors can image the amount of glucose used by the brain to determine whether there's a difference in brain use by the frontal lobe, temporal lobe or the parietal lobe.

PET gives the ability to make predictions as to those individuals who will go on from mild impairment of memory to developing Alzheimer's disease. These patients may then qualify to participate in clinical trials for medications that treat Alzheimer's. Studies with glucose are being supplemented by PET scans that can image beta-amyloid, one of the abnormal proteins in the brain in Alzheimer's disease.

Sabin, whose mother and grandmother had dementia, is participating in U-M research that will help researchers diagnose and treat the illness earlier in life.

"I have trouble remembering names and the most frustrating is when they are names of people I know really well, I just can't bring the name to the surface," Sabin says.

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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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