Scientists have developed a new non-invasive MRI-based scanning method to detect Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages, that was not possible in the traditional imaging method, raising hope that drug makers can now focus on treating the disease at its early stage.
The new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology can detect the amyloid beta brain toxins responsible for onset of the disease as the scan showed the accumulated toxins or amyloid beta oligomers as dark areas in MRI scans of the brain.
“Non-invasive imaging by MRI of amyloid beta oligomers is a giant step forward towards diagnosis of this debilitating disease in its earliest form,” said Vinayak Dravid, a professor at Northwestern University, US.
This ability to detect the molecular toxins which damage the brain may one day enable scientists to both spot trouble early and better design drugs or therapies to combat and monitor the disease, he said. “This MRI method could be used to determine how well a new drug is working.”
The conventional imaging method is by positron emission tomography using probes that target amyloid fibrils but these fibrils are not closely linked to the development of the disease, said the study.
The new MRI probe technology is different from the traditional technology in detecting toxic amyloid beta oligomers instead of plaques, which occur at a stage of Alzheimer’s when therapeutic intervention would be very late.
It is widely believed that amyloid beta oligomers are the culprit in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and subsequent memory-loss, especially among the elderly people.
The study said, “When intranasally administered to an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model, the probe readily reached hippocampal Aβ oligomers. In isolated samples of human brain tissue, we observed a magnetic resonance imaging signal that distinguished Alzheimer’s disease from controls.”
The visible nanostructures that target neurotoxic oligomers are potentially useful for evaluating the efficacy of new drugs and ultimately for early-stage Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and disease management.
In their study, researchers used the non-toxic MRI probe to deliver intranasally to mouse models with Alzheimer’s disease and control animals without the disease. In animals with Alzheimer’s, the toxins’ presence was visible clearly in the hippocampus area in brain’s MRI scans.
No dark areas, however, were seen in the hippocampus of the control group, said researchers whose study has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. (With inputs from IANS)