Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Technology to detect early signs of Alzheimer's Disease (AD)

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately there is no cure for the disease and patient's condition will worsens as the disease progresses and will eventually lead to the death of the patient. The disease was first described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and the disease was named after him. The symptoms of this disease is different for different individuals. But common symptoms include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Since the symptoms is different for different individuals, it is hard to find out the disease at the early stages. The life expectancy of the disease after diagnosis is seven years. Only less than three percent of the patients survive after fourteen years after diagnosis.

Now there is a new brain scanning technology that helps to identify the disease even before the symptoms completely develop and there is less chance for the misdiagnosis. Now the technology is in the final stage of the clinical trials. If it is found successful then it can be implemented by the end of 2012.Normally definitive conclusion came only after the death of the individual, when the brain samples containing high levels of beta amyloid plaques, the growths that characterise AD, were found.But now a new compound called Flutemetamol, which highlights areas of the brain that are affected by the disease when scanned, is showing hopeful results in clinical studies.The compound is injected into the arm of the patients and those who show symptoms of AD undergo a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan.If beta amyloid plaques are present in the brain, Flutemetamol makes them glow red, which confirms the patient has AD. Thus the disease can be identified in the earlier stages and can increase the life span of the patient.

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