Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology researchers have developed a new PET tracer that potentially detects Alzheimer’s disease better and earlier than the other imaging compounds currently available.
“I think we’ll be able to detect Alzheimer’s maybe 10 to 15 years sooner, especially in people who might be at risk for developing the disease,” says Vijay Sharma, PhD, professor of radiology, neurology and biomedical engineering.
Called Fluselenamyl, the new chemical compound can identify smaller clumps of amyloid beta, which is a sticky protein found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. By the time patients exhibit signs of cognitive decline and memory loss from the disease, their brains are riddled with amyloid plaques.
The MIR-produced tracer binds to amyloid beta three-to-10 times better than the three other FDA-approved imaging agents designed to detect Alzheimer’s. It also detects diffuse plaque — something that none of the other compounds can do, Sharma says.
Amyloid plaques can either be “compact” or “diffuse.” Compact forms of amyloid plaque appear after significant brain damage has occurred. Formerly thought to be benign because it’s found in the brains of the elderly with and without Alzheimer’s, diffuse plaque is now believed to be an indicator of pre-clinical disease.
People begin to acquire diffuse plaque around 50 years of age. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s, except those with the inherited form of the disease, typically first experience symptoms during their 60s. “Fluselenamyl will be able to detect Alzheimer’s before symptoms and brain damage occur,” Sharma says. “It will also better quantify the efficacy of existing state-ofthe-art drugs and new therapies under development for either reducing or excreting plaques from the brain of AD (Alzheimer’s disease) patients.” Because of its ability to detect diffuse plaques, application of Fluselenamyl could extend well beyond Alzheimer’s.
So far, Fluselenamyl has been used in animal studies only. Human testing is next, and Sharma has submitted an application to the National Institutes of Health for a Phase 0 trial. Results of pre-clinical tests conducted by Sharma and his associates were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Since it was published, Fluselenamyl has been widely discussed at Alzheimer’s disease forums and listed by major societies, including World Molecular Imaging and the Radiological Society of North America,”