[ Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] – Banner Alzheimer’s Institute has struck a pact with a British pharmaceutical company to test brain-imaging technology in Arizona that researchers say may yield more clues and treatments to Alzheimer’s disease. Banner scientists will test a molecule developed by London-based AstraZeneca that could help measure harmful protein deposits in the brain associated with the fatal disease. The technology could make it easier for researchers to track the progression of the disease and test drugs that aim to treat or prevent the brain disorder that afflicts 5 million Americans.
“The most important thing is they came here and recognized the resources of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and the state of Arizona,” said Dr. Eric Reiman, executive director of the institute. “It is tools like this that will play a role in developing promising therapies.” The technology centers on a molecule, called a radioligand, that AstraZeneca believes can help measure the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The molecule works by clinging to amyloid plaque, or protein deposits in the brain that are a trait of the disease. The molecule will allow scientists to measure the growth of the plaque through a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Banner and AstraZeneca said the technology could help gauge the effectiveness of existing Alzheimer’s drugs or provide clues to new treatments. The scientists will conduct six studies between now and the end of 2009 on various measures. Neither Banner nor AstraZeneca released terms of the research agreement. Reiman said the AstraZeneca molecule is one of a handful of PET tools being evaluated worldwide for how well they measure, visualize and quantify protein deposits in the brain.