New imaging agent may help in early detection of Alzheimer's

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Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh say they have developed a new contrast agent that helps detect amyloid beta, the protein-based plaque that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Researchers refer to the imaging agent as Pittsburgh Compound B and describe it as a variation of the radioactive dye used by pathologists to find Alzheimer's in brain samples from dead patients. It is used in conjunction with positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.

William Klunk, M.D., who led the Pittsburgh study, said physicians will likely be able to "follow the progression of the disease and speed the development of promising new therapies aimed at halting the build-up of amyloid in the brain."

The compound is patented by the university and is licensed to Amersham plc.

The Pittsburgh study is published in the Annals of Neurology. The study was funded in part by the Alzheimer's Association.