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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases Arrow to Alzheimer's DiseaseAlzheimer's Disease

Amyloid Plaques in Alzheimer's Disease

Why chase down amyloid plaques if there is no cure? Answer: an accurate diagnosis.

brain scan
Hunting down amyloid plaques
in the brain will give doctors a
clearer picture of a condition
sometimes confused with
dementia or other diseases.

Loss of recent memory is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, occurring years before enough nerve cells are choked off to cause disability.

This early hallmark symptom of the disease is due to the amyloid plaques that inhibit memory and learning.

What are amyloid plaques?

Amyloid is a natural occurring protein fragment in the brain. In normal brains, these protein fragments are eventually broken down and eliminated.

In Alzheimer's patients, however, these proteins accumulate in between nerve cells (neurons), sticking together to form a plaque that inhibits normal brain function.

Diagnosing early formation of amyloid plaques has been frustrating for researchers who can only detect them during autopsies.

As a safer alternative, the use of biomarkers to trace evidence of these toxic proteins in the blood have held out promise for all-important early detection of the disease. Other candidates include tests for proteins in the spinal fluid, brain imaging, and genetic risk profiling.

Most recently, AV-45, a new brain imaging compound, promises to finally make early stage Alzeheimer detection possible. After being injected into a patient, the radioactive "dye" binds to amyloid plaques, allowing doctors the ability to clearly see for the first time the presence of one of the main culprits in Alzheimer's disease.

Because Alzheimer's symptoms often mimics symptoms of various other conditions -- ranging from dementia and Parkinson's to depression and even hearing loss -- a more accurate test will inevitably lead to a more accurate diagnosis.

Early stages of Alzheimer's show plaques that will begin to appear throughout the brain, starting with the neocortex.

Mild to moderate symptoms begin to appear indicated by memory loss and personality changes. As the disease progresses, damage to tissue is widespread as the brain shrinks significantly, impeding physical activity.

diagram showing the progression of Alzheimer's disease in the brain

Meanwhile, many experimental approaches to treating Alzheimer's disease have been discussed, including further formation of amyloid plaques with the use of vaccines or some other immune therapy to reduce formation.

This might be followed by memory-enhancing drugs to ward-off at least one of the early debilitating stages of Alzheimer's until a cure can be found.

More about amyloid plaques & Alzheimer's disease around the Web:

Amyloid Plaques and Tangles

The Alzheimer's Brain

Studies target amyloid plaques and tau tangles


also see -> Senior Health | Alzheimer's & Diet


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