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A New Dye To Trace ‘Plaque’ In Brain Helps Towards Alzheimer’s

- Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading progressive form of dementia in the United States thought to affect 50-70% of all known cases of dementia. The disease typically manifests after age 65 and has a typical course of early memory problems, spatial deficits; language disorder and eventual breakdown in one’s ability to remain organized and composed behaviorally. The disease causes significant financial and emotional tolls on families and society and projections are for a sharp increase in the number of cases of AD by the middle of this century.

Diagnostic testing has advanced faster than treatments.  There are only four FDA approved medications that treat symptoms of the disease. A fifth (Tacrine) was dropped due to side effects. Diagnostically a comprehensive dementia work-up that includes a physical examination to rule out reversible forms of dementia such as B-12 deficiency or thyroid conditions, neuropsychological assessment, social history, and functional exam can produce a high degree of accuracy for the presence of dementia and the cause such as AD. However, there are still errors made with diagnosis and too many false positives (diagnosing AD when it is not AD) and false negatives (not diagnosing AD when it is present) made. A good rule is to follow patients beyond one examination as it the degree of diagnosis difficulty lessons as the disease advances. It is critical to diagnose early in the disease process, however, so available treatments can begin sooner. It is also critical to know that while the medical community valiantly struggles to cure this dreaded disease, Spring Arbor delivers professional and certified Alzheimer's care  services a four care centers in North Carolina and Virginia.  Those locations are Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Greenville (Grenville, NC), Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Salisbury (Midlothian and Salisbury, Va), Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Rocky Mount (Rocky Mount, NC) and Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Wilmington (Wilmington, NC).

A recent study has demonstrated that a dye that can stick to the plaque and that can be seen using a radioactive tracer by PET (positron emission tomography) scanning technology. This is the first practical technique to see plaque in a living person’s brain. It offers a significant advancement enabling accurate diagnose and to measure treatment efficacy as we can measure the response of plaque to certain treatments.  An earlier but little used dye (the Pittsburgh Compound B), developed two decades ago. Indeed, science remains unclear if the plaque is event the major factor in the cause of AD.

Nonetheless, the new dye and scanning technique can be a significant step towards a more sensitive and specific approach to diagnosing AD and for measuring the effects of the many new treatments that will arrive to market in the next decade. With much advancement in technology we are one step closer every day to helping patients.

Until the medical community completely eradicates Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the burden rests with family and professional care providers who understand and can deliver upon the wide-ranging levels of care that the disease demands.  That is why Spring Arbor Living provides custom Alzheimer's care plans that step up and deliver for you and your loved ones.