Tests showed that in PET scans of the brain, the compounds highlight protein clusters in Alzheimer's sufferers.
The protein clusters, called tau proteins, clump together and become tangled in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The tangles are an important marker of brain deterioration that was previously difficult to monitor, and will help doctors determine the progression of the disease.
The compounds will also aid in diagnosing the disease and monitoring the effectiveness of treatments, including in testing new drugs to prevent and treat the disease.
Tau tangles also play a role in other types of dementia and movement disorders, and the discovery could help doctors diagnose, monitor and treat these diseases as well.