Alzheimer's: early detection of amyloid plaques in the brain improves management

The early diagnosis of amyloid plaques in the brain, signs of the onset of Alzheimer's disease, improves the medical care of patients.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently succeeded in phasing out amyloid plaques in mice, using light therapy and ultrasound. The study, published in Cell, gives hope for the future of treatments for Alzheimer's disease, because the formation of amyloid plaques (or "senile plaques") in the brain is the sign of the appearance of the disease.

A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of California and published in the journal JAMA, shows that if doctors do a PET scan and observe very early the formation of amyloid plaques, the care of patients is better.

Amyloid plaques detected in many cases

To perform this study, the researchers analyzed data from 11,409 people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. The patients were 75 years old on average. Thanks to the PET scan, doctors detected amyloid plaques in 55.3% of people with mild cognitive impairment and in 70.1% of people with dementia. The researchers then found that within 90 days of PET scan, patient management changed in 60.2% of patients with mild cognitive impairment and 63.5% of patients with dementia.

Better patient care

PET scan is a medical imaging examination that measures the metabolic or molecular activity of an organ in three dimensions. It is able to detect amyloid plaques in the brain, and thus the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers found changes between medical visits before the PET scan and those after the PET scan. Some patients were prescribed certain drugs, others received information, advice. In the findings of the study, the researchers point out that more research is needed to see if early diagnosis of amyloid plaques leads to better outcomes on patients' health status.