The development of a ‘tracer’ that could show changes in the brain associated with inflammation will be reported today at the Neuroscience 2014 conference in Washington DC.
Researchers from Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School tested the imaging technique to detect inflammation in the brain, characterised by chemical changes, and associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation starts as a way to protect the brain, but in excess it can cause damage to brain cells, and may contribute to the progression of the condition.
The tracer was tested in mice that have developed the changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The tracer attaches to chemicals that are produced during inflammation, allowing it to be detected in PET brain scans.
Alzheimer’s Society comment:
Jess Smith, Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘If we are to improve diagnosis and treatment options for dementia, we need to better understand what is happening in the brain. Imaging technology, although limited, has already provided useful insight into this. Being able to monitor inflammation in the brain could allow researchers and clinicians to better understand the progress of the disease and test if new drugs are working. This is an exciting prospect but it remains to be seen if this tracer will work in humans as well as it does in mice.
‘Inflammation appears to be a significant part of Alzheimer’s disease, which is why Alzheimer’s Society is currently funding several researchers to investigate the role of inflammation and develop ways to stop its negative effects.’