Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

New Alzheimer’s Scan For Early Diagnoses

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a brain disorder that primarily affects the elderly. It is named after a German doctor, Alois Alzheimer, who in 1996 noticed anomalies in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of a strange mental illness. There were abnormal clumps called amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibers, both of which are the most common signs of Alzheimer’s. Other brain changes can occur as well. Nerve cells die in areas of the brain vital to memory and other mental abilities, and the connections between nerve cells are disrupted, impairing thinking and memory. The disease is slow moving and in its earliest stages, may merely appear to be mild forgetfulness and be confused with age-related memory change. There may be problems remembering recent events or activities, or the names of familiar people or objects. As the disease progresses, the forgetfulness becomes more severe, interfering with daily activities, such as brushing one’s teeth. There are problems speaking, understanding, reading or writing, and eventually the brain damage becomes so severe as to require total care.

In January, the FDA’s Drug Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a new imaging agent to detect early Alzheimer’s disease. The agent, florbetapir, is produced by Eli Lilly and Company under the name Amyvid. Amyvid would be injected into the patient and used in conjunction with PET (positron emission tomography) scans to illuminate and detect the beta amyloid plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease. PET scans performed with Amyvid would allow physicians to provide prognostic information to patients and their families even at a time of limited therapeutic approaches to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the availability of imaging agents that can reliably detect amyloid plaques will be an absolute prerequisite to select patients that may benefit from future specific anti-amyloid based Alzheimer therapies. Experts agree the test could become a critical part of detecting Alzheimer’s before symptoms take hold, but a clinical reality is far from imminent.  Although years away, researchers envision the amyloid PET scan could join the ranks of other routine mid-life surveillance tests such as colonoscopy and mammography for early detection. Before FDA approval, manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company must demonstrate that standards for interpreting brain scans can be made consistent enough to routinely guarantee an accurate diagnosis.

Because there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, Dr. Sam Gandy, the Mount Sinai Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research in NYC acknowledges the test may not be considered worth the cost even if the FDA approves the recommendation. He added that, “”Medicare may decide that the added value does not merit reimbursement without a meaningful intervention.” Since 2007, molecular imaging has been utilized in improving diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other dementias with PET scans using other imaging agents such as FDG. FDG stands for fluorodeoxyglucose, a short-lived radioactive form of sugar injected into people during PET scans to show activity levels in different parts of the brain. In Alzheimer’s, low activity is mostly in the back part of the brain; while frontal lobe dementia occurs in the front. In 2008, researchers in France developed an automated system for measuring brain tissue loss using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to help doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. In Alzheimer’s disease, the buildup of certain proteins in the brain leads to brain cell and brain tissue death; the hardest-hit part of the brain is the hippocampus, which affects memory.The automated MRI system helps in diagnosing Alzheimer’s by speeding up the process of visually measuring shrinkage in the hippocampus consistent with the disease. is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care Philadelphia, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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