Researchers from the PET Centre at Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital have successfully passed an antibody through the blood-brain barrier, which can act as a tracer for PET scans of the brain to enable more precise information than that obtained with current radioactive tracers. By using this, the team hopes that they’ll be able to more effectively diagnose the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and also monitor the effects of medication more successfully.
Lars Lannfelt, professor of Geriatrics, explained that the antibody used is able to bind the soluble forms of amyloid beta which cause the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. These soluble forms are called protofibrils.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s and the New Study
PET scanning is currently used a method for diagnosing Alzheimer’s, with the patient being given a radioactive tracer, usually via a blood vessel. This tracer then shows up within the cells and organs when viewed under the scanner. This new study is the first time that a monoclonal antibody has been used to scan the brain, as the uptake of antibodies is usually limited by the blood-brain barrier, which doesn’t allow the antibody to pass through. However, by developing a protein which worked in a similar way to the Trojan Horse, by deceiving the receptors on the walls of the blood vessels, the scientists have been able to deliver this antibody to the brains of transgenic Alzheimer mice.
With this new method the researchers are able to monitor the progression of the disease which, as the symptoms of the disease often appear slowly over a period of 10-20 years, will prove very advantageous for early diagnosis. Furthermore, it not only increases the ability to observe and monitor the progression of Alzheimer’s, but to assess the effect that medication is having on the disease.
The team are now working on a similar method using antibodies and PET scans to further their ability to diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s disease. It’s hoped that, in the future, this same technique will be readily available to explore other brain conditions, such as depression and bipolar disorder.
The study was published in the recent edition of Nature Communications.
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