Powerful Advancement in Imaging Research in the Brains of Living People with Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Association
Friday, 23 January 2004

Texas-based T.L.L. Temple Foundation Funds Study That Could Accelerate Development of Disease-Altering Medications

An imaging method can show the presence of beta-amyloid in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, according to a report published this week in the journal Annals of Neurology. The research was funded in part by grants from the Alzheimer's Association, including the T. L. L. Temple Foundation Discovery Award that supported the work of one of the lead researchers, William E. Klunk, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh.

The implications of these findings may be enormous for Alzheimer's research, specifically: to observe the effects of amyloid-targeting drugs in the brain and perhaps efforts to detect Alzheimer's in the early stages. The buildup in the brain of a sticky protein called amyloid is thought to be a major player in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Until now, amyloid plaques could only be detected at autopsy or by brain biopsy.

"The Alzheimer's Association is very proud to have helped fund this research. It is one of the most important studies published in recent years," said Sheldon Goldberg, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association. "We applaud The T.L.L. Temple Foundation for its generous funding and support of Alzheimer research. It's gratifying to see that individual donors are making such a huge impact in the fight for better treatments, preventions and eventually a cure."

Since its inception in 1997, The Alzheimer's Association has awarded approximately 50 grants through the T. L. L. Temple Foundation Discovery Awards. In turn, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, based in Lufkin, Texas, has given more than $10 million through the Association's international research program to support efforts to find new and effective treatments of Alzheimer's disease. The Foundation has also been a supporter of the Alzheimer's Association at the local level in East Texas through chapter donations.

"It is encouraging and moving to see this progress that has been made to detect and study Alzheimer's," said Arthur Temple, chairman emeritus of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation. "Our Foundation has been committed to providing support for investigators fostering new research to discover the basis of Alzheimer's disease and to develop effective treatments and practical methods to ease the suffering of patients and families while the search for a cure goes on."

About the study

The imaging strategy uses a substance called Pittsburgh Compound B (PIB). PIB is designed to travel through the bloodstream, enter the brain, and attach itself to beta-amyloid deposits. PIB also has a property that enables it to be detected by an imaging procedure called positron emission tomography (PET). In a colorized PET scan of the brain, an area with the highest concentration of beta-amyloid should "light up" red and the area with no beta-amyloid should appear blue.

In this study, the researchers recruited people with an average age of 70. Sixteen of these participants had been diagnosed with mild Alzheimer's disease, and six had no impairment in memory or thinking skills. Three 21-year-old individuals with normal memory and thinking skills also participated in the trial.

Investigators found that compared with the scans of healthy participants, the scans of people with Alzheimer's disease showed significantly more red (high concentrations of amyloid) in regions of the brain known to be severely damaged by Alzheimer's.

The authors of the study also noted that the amyloid imaging method might contribute to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease progression and eventually may help identify the disease process in people with no symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Preliminary results from this study were first reported in July 2002 in Stockholm at the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, a dementia research forum presented by the Alzheimer's Association.

For more information, or to contact Alzheimer's Association, see their website at: www.alz.org

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