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Alzheimer's Disease Dementia Genetic Research Imaging Techniques

Amyloid Blood Levels Associated With Brain Changes

4 months, 2 weeks ago

4824  0
Posted on Mar 07, 2024, 3 p.m.

Research published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association from the University of Florida suggests that there is a link between abnormal blood levels of amyloid proteins and subtle changes in brain microstructures on a type of MRI that could lead to a new way to detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier in those not displaying any clinical signs.

For this study, 128 participants with and without dementia underwent imaging scans using positron emission tomography (PET) to detect amyloid protein plaques in the brain. The analysis revealed that even with a negative PET scan from amyloid and the participant being free of symptoms of dementia there was an association in those who had abnormal amyloid levels in their blood and structural abnormalities in their brain detected when using “free-water” MRI imaging. 

"Previously people would say one of the earliest events you would see is amyloid positivity in the brain on a PET scan," said senior author David Vaillancourt, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the UF College of Health & Human Performance's Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. "Our findings suggest there seem to be events occurring both in the blood and in the brain before you detect amyloid positivity in the brain."

Two main mechanisms affect free water: inflammation and atrophy, which occurs when cells are dying. The team led by investigators from UF's Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute and the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health suggest that their results indicate that free water imaging is more sensitive to the early stages of decline in brain tissues and tiny structures in key parts of the brain even when a PET scan is negative. 

Those who had positive blood tests for amyloid but negative PET scans for amyloid were shown to have brain changes on diffusion MRI which included decreased cortical volume and thickness, increased free-water in 24 outer and inner parts of the brain, and decreased tissue microstructure in 66 regions, as compared to those with a negative blood amyloid test and a negative PET amyloid scan, according to the researchers. 

Finding a new method and biomarkers to detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier and at less expense could open the path to clinical trials of experimental drugs to combat the disease and intervene sooner. 

The next steps are to better correlate their findings and follow the participants to see if those with positive blood amyloid test become positive for PET amyloid scans; and to see how free-water and blood change over time and how well the changes correlate with symptoms and cognitive testing and eventual clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. 

"We want to follow them over time to better understand the trajectory of change," Vaillancourt said.

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