Amyloid PET Imaging: Key Advancement for Alzheimer's Disease Assessment

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for approximately 50 to 70 percent of all cases, yet there are still many complexities involved in diagnosing the disease. As there is currently no single test for diagnosis, identification of Alzheimer’s is based on an individual’s history, physical examination, and cognitive testing. However, the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease during life is accurate only 70 – 80 percent of the time when compared to post-mortem brain autopsy findings.

Amyloid PET imaging represents a potentially revolutionary advancement in the assessment of those with cognitive impairment. The scan identifies plaques in the brain which are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells in Alzheimer's. Before amyloid PET, these plaques could only be detected by examining the brain at autopsy. Studies suggest that amyloid PET scans during life have approximately 90 percent accuracy in detecting amyloid plaques when compared to tissue analysis after death.

The use of amyloid PET imaging as a diagnostic biomarker for the disease has been pioneered through UCSF’s Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. ADNI is the largest and most comprehensive research study of its kind in the world, working to identify the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s when brain damage begins. Since its inception in 2004, ADNI has been validating the use of biomarkers including blood tests, tests of cerebrospinal fluid, and PET/MRI imaging for Alzheimer’s clinical trials and diagnoses.

UCSF is one of the world’s largest centers for evaluation of cognitive decline and dementia. The Departments of Neurology and Radiology and the multidisciplinary initiatives that serve Alzheimer's patients, including the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases, and ADNI, are leading multiple national research studies, including the $100 million IDEAS (Imaging Dementia - Evidence for Amyloid Scanning) Study. In addition, researchers at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center are investigating the use of amyloid imaging and other advanced techniques for differentiating Alzheimer’s disease from other causes of cognitive decline.

Please learn more about Alzheimer’s disease assessment and treatment at UCSF by clicking here.

To learn more and see if you or a patient is an eligible candidate for the IDEAS Study, please get more information here

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