Alzheimer's-detecting PET scans could be on the market within a year

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Preserving Cognitive Status in Elderly Surgical Patients Requiring General Anesthesia
Preserving Cognitive Status in Elderly Surgical Patients Requiring General Anesthesia
Nuclear medicine experts say positron emission tomography (PET) scans that detect beta amyloid plaques in the brain could make it to the marketplace within the next year. Beta-amyloid is a naturally occurring protein that is directly implicated in the development of Alzheimer's.

In research presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine 58th Annual Meeting in San Antonio this week, researchers said a positive scan for amyloid is the most accurate predictor for cognitive decline, the Los Angeles Times reported. One study showed that amyloid plaques build up slowly, growing 2% to 3% per year. Detecting the plaques early could let physicians and patients find the most efficient way to channel resources, or develop and implement lifestyle modifications to ease the effect of cognitive impairment, according to the newspaper.

"It turns out that increased amyloid is bad for cognition even in the healthy elderly," said Michael Devous, Sr., PhD, director of neuroimaging for the Alzheimer's Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "If you look at working memory, processing speed or fluent reasoning, three critical general domains of cognition, the more amyloid you have, the worse your performance, and that's after correcting for age."

Scientists said that PET scans could also be helpful in developing vaccines and therapies for Alzheimer's. Researchers said that early stages of the disease can precede the arrival of early symptoms by 10 or more years. Currently, World Health Organization statistics show that 18 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's. That figure is expected to double by 2025.