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Longer-Lasting Imaging Agents Could Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

New compounds show promise for brain imaging of Alzheimer’s disease in living patients.

Mary Bates, Contributor
Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by the buildup in the brain of amyloid plaques containing the amyloid β (Aβ) peptide. Currently, the disease can only be diagnosed with certainty upon detailed postmortem examination of the brain. Thus, doctors and health researchers are interested in finding new ways to image Aβ aggregates in the brains of living patients, which they hope could lead to earlier diagnoses.

Researchers recently reported the development of bifunctional chemical compounds that show promise as imaging agents for Alzheimer’s disease. In a study published in the journal Inorganic Chemistry, researchers describe the new compounds, which exhibit a high affinity for copper (Cu) ions, as well as interacting with Aβ aggregates. The researchers say these compounds could be radiolabled with Cu-64 and thus become amyloid-binding imaging agents in positron emission tomography, or PET.

PET is a promising tool for early diagnosis of AD, but the two radioactive isotopes used in the imaging technique -- carbon-11 and fluorine-18 -- have short half-lives of 20 minutes and 110 minutes, respectively.

One advantage of the new compounds is that Cu-64 has a half-life of 12.7 hours, better for PET imaging purposes than the traditional radioactive isotopes.