In a world first, researchers have used a radiotracer to detect a key contributor to neurological diseases in humans.
Led by Dr. Chetna Mathura from The University of Queensland’s Centre for Advanced Imaging, the study used a novel radiotracer called [18F]THK5317 to visualise tau protein deposits in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies.
“This is the first time that this radiotracer has been used in humans and our results show that it has great potential for use in diagnosing and staging these devastating neurological diseases,” said Dr. Mathura.
“Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies, so early diagnosis is critical for engaging patients in lifestyle and medication interventions that can slow the progression of these diseases.”
Tauopathies are a group of neurodegenerative diseases characterised by the build-up of abnormal tau protein deposits in the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common tauopathy, affecting more than five million Americans.
While current diagnostic methods for tauopathies are limited, they generally involve costly and invasive brain biopsies or PET scans.
“Our study demonstrates that [18F]THK5317 is a promising new PET tracer for the non-invasive imaging of tau deposits in the brain,” said Dr. Mathura.
“This is a significant advance in the field, as current diagnostic methods are limited and often rely on Invasive brain biopsies.”
The study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the United States and Japan, involved 14 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and four patients with other tauopathies.
All participants underwent PET scans using [18F]THK5317, and the resulting images were compared to those from PET scans using another tau tracer called [18F]AV-1451.
The results showed that [18F]THK5317 was able to detect tau deposits in the brains of all participants, with good agreement between the two tracers.
“Our study shows that [18F]THK5317 has great potential as a diagnostic tool for tauopathies,” said Dr. Mathura.
“The next step is to conduct further studies to validate our findings and to compare the performance of [18F]THK5317 to other tau tracers.”
An important contributor to many neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, is the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. While beta-amyloid can be detected using a number of imaging techniques, such as PET and MRI, these techniques are not specific for beta-amyloid and cannot distinguish between the different types of amyloid that accumulate in the brain in different neurological diseases.
A new radiotracer that specifically detects beta-amyloid plaques has been tested for the first time in humans. The radiotracer, called florbetapir-F18, is a positron emission tomography (PET) tracer that binds to beta-amyloid plaques. In a small study of 12 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 12 healthy control subjects, florbetapir-F18 images showed high levels of beta-amyloid in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, while control subjects had little or no beta-amyloid.
The results of this study suggest that florbetapir-F18 could be a useful tool for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease and for monitoring the effects of disease-modifying treatments. The tracer may also be useful for studying other neurological diseases in which beta-amyloid accumulation is thought to play a role.