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Potential new research tools for diagnosing Alzheimer’s

What if you could help treat Alzheimer’s disease by supporting research efforts to identify the disease earlier?

Today, there’s no way to diagnose Alzheimer’s for certain until someone dies and an autopsy reveals the distinctive buildup of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. This makes it hard for doctors to diagnose the disease and for scientists to test investigational treatments for Alzheimer’s. If scientists are testing a treatment that targets one of these proteins in the brain, it makes sense to only include patients who have it. If only we could identify Alzheimer’s early on in sufferers in order to find a treatment.

But researchers now believe they may be able to detect tau using an investigational imaging dye, called a ‘tracer’. This tracer has been developed to attach to tau in the brain and be highlighted during a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain scan. Because this can be done while the patient is alive, the tracer may help us diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier and therefore begin treatment and management sooner. Researchers use similar tracers to diagnose many other conditions including heart disease and cancer.

Researchers are conducting a clinical trial called the A16 Research Study to compare this investigational method of detecting tau (using a tracer and PET scan in a living person), to the current method (examining the brain under a microscope after death), to check whether the results match up. Researchers also need to compare the brains of people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline with the brains of others with little or no cognitive impairment. This is why they also need people without Alzheimer’s to take part.

“Just as you might check the box to donate your heart or other organs, now you can also donate your brain, even if you don’t have Alzheimer’s,” said Patricia Stevenson, the senior clinical trial manager at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, which is conducting the study.

In order to participate in this study, you must be nearing the end of your life, with a life expectancy of six months or less. For more information, go to or call (833) 764-2265.

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