Why, you might wonder, can't doctors just take an MRI or CT scan of our
brains and tell us whether we are at risk for Alzheimer's disease or
not. One simple answer is that the Aβ plaques that form in the brains of Alzheimer's patients are so small in the
early stages of the disease that they can't be seen by current
diagnostic methods. But that may soon change with new x-ray
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have demonstrated that a technique used to look at breast tumors and joint cartilage can be used to detect early Aβ plaques in mice. This technique, called diffraction-enhanced imaging (DEI), depends on synchrotron x-ray beams that are thousands of times more intense and concentrated than any x-ray means now used in medicine.
In the mouse study, researchers used DEI in micro-computerized tomography to see the entire mouse brain, including bones and soft tissue structures, as well as the individual Aβ plaques. Unfortunately, the DEI technology utilizes too much radiation to be safe for humans at this point, but the mouse studies will be very useful in helping the researchers understand the development and growth of Aβ plaques. And, simultaneously we hope, they will progress towards making the DEI analysis safely accessible for humans.
The full report on the DEI study is published in the July 2009 issue of NeuroImage.
Keeping you posted...