A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, U.S. have been looking into the beta-amyloid protein plaques found in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The team used a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a radioactive substance that bound to the plaques to follow 56 people, between the ages of 65 and 80, at yearly intervals over four years. About 60% of the participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) had plaque levels similar to people with Alzheimer's while the rest had no detectable plaque. By the end of the study only those with plaques had developed a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's. About 25% of the 'healthy' control group - who had neither MCI nor Alzheimer's - had significant deposits of amyloid plaque. The team hope their new techniques of detecting plaques within the brain will lead to earlier diagnosis of, and treatment for, Alzheimer's.
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