U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

New Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Imaging Agent Shows Alzheimer's Disease in Patients
Published: January 16, 2002
Posted: January 23, 2002

A new imaging agent that homes in on the gummy plaques and tangles that jam up the brains of Alzheimer's patients has allowed UCLA scientists to see the disease in a living person for the first time. The researchers saw the messy clumps of dead cells in the brains of nine living Alzheimer's patients. The disease, which is always fatal and has no cure, can now only be definitively diagnosed by looking at the brain after a patient has died. The finding means that Alzheimer's, which affects 4 million Americans and millions more around the world, may be diagnosed in the early stages, when treatments might be able to do some good. Under a Radiopharmaceutical and Molecular nuclear medicine program funded by the Department's office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), Dr. Jorge R. Barrio, the UCLA chemist, designed and built a radioactive molecule called FDDNP and discovered that FDDNP has a specific affinity for the neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. After injecting FDDNP, they used positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the patients' brain to detect the brain lesions from beta-amyloid plaques, the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. This new technique to image the onset of Alzheimer's disease in the living brain received wide media attention last week. CBS Evening News ran an interview with Gary Small, UCLA Parlow-Solomon Professor of Aging, on the technique's clinical implications. CBS Morning News, CNN Headline News, ABCNews.com, Reuters Television, Associated Press, Reuters Newswire, Reuters Health (consumer and professional newswires), National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," KCRW-FM 89.9, KPFK-90.7 FM, KFI-640 AM Canadian Broadcasting System Radio's "As It Happens," Boston Herald, Toronto Sun, KCBS- Channel 2, KABC-Channel 7, Desert Sun, MSNBC, Health SCOUT and WebMD.com also covered the findings, which were published in the January 10, 2002, issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Contact: Prem Srivastava, SC-73 (3-4071)
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Human Subjects Research
  • Legacy: Radiochemistry and Instrumentation
  • Legacy: Medical Applications

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER
      (formerly SC-73 Medical Sciences Division, OBER)


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