"This study is connecting two of the biggest Alzheimer's dots," said Dr. Saykin, director of the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center and the IU Center for Neuroimaging at the IU Health Neuroscience Center.
"The finding that BCHE gene variant predicts the extent of plaque deposit in PET scans among people at risk for Alzheimer's disease is likely to reinvigorate research into drugs that could modify the disease by affecting the BCHE enzyme or its metabolic pathway," he said. Some existing drugs inhibit this enzyme, but it is unclear whether this influences plaque deposits.
Overall, the results appear to offer scientists new potential targets for drugs to slow, reverse or even prevent the disease. Alzheimer's disease affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans and has proven resistant to treatments that do more than temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms.
Amyloid plaque deposits build up abnormally in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and are believed to play an important role in the memory loss and other problems that plague patients.
The study makes use of an imaging agent, florbetapir, now approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that allows physicians to see the level of plaque buildup in a patient's brain, something that previously could be determined only with an autopsy.
In a genome-wide association study, researchers evaluate alternate versions of many genes to determine whether particular genetic variants are associated with a particular trait -- in this case, the amounts of amyloid plaque deposits that the PET scans revealed in the brains of study participants.
Using the imaging agent that enables detection of the plaques in
|Contact: Eric Schoch|