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New imaging tool may detect Alzheimer's early

By
Ryan Maass
Scientists say their new chemical compound binds to proteins associated with Alzheimer's up to 10 times better than current FDA-approved agents. Photo by Washington University School of Medicine
Scientists say their new chemical compound binds to proteins associated with Alzheimer's up to 10 times better than current FDA-approved agents. Photo by Washington University School of Medicine

ST. LOUIS, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Washington University researchers have developed a chemical compound they say can provide an early diagnosis for Alzheimer's disease.

Patients with Alzheimer's disease have normally incurred a significant degree of neurological damage by the time they are diagnosed. A research team says their new chemical compound, known as Fluselenamyl, is capable of detecting amyloid clumps better than current methods approved the by U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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"Fluselenamyl is both more sensitive and likely more specific than current agents," study author Vijay Sharma said in a press release. "Using this compound, I think we can reduce false negatives, potentially do a better job of identifying people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease and assess the effects of treatments."

Fluselenamyl detects clumps when it is introduced to a radioactive atom, which allows investigators to monitor a living brain using positron emission tomography, or PET.

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During the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team demonstrated that the compound bound to human amyloid beta proteins 2 to 10 times more effectively than three FDA-approved imaging agents. Fluselenamyl was also found to detect smaller clumps than the other compounds, indicating it may be able to detect the neurological disease earlier.

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The imaging technique was tested using mice, and was quickly flushed from the brain in animals without plaques. Sharma says the next step in the research is to move testing to human patients.

"Ideally, we'd like to look at patients with very mild symptoms who are negative for Alzheimer's by PET scan to see if we can identify them using Fluselenamyl," Sharma said. "One day, we may be able to use Fluselenamyl as part of a screening test to identify segments of the population that are going to be at risk for development of Alzheimer's disease. That's the long-term goal."

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