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Health Check: New Alzheimer’s disease study

The 3-D pet scan isn’t something new.

However, being able to use the same imaging test to see inside the brain for changes that may signal impending Alzheimer’s Disease is new.

The test scans specifically for amyloid plaque. A buildup of amyloid is one of the brain abnormalities that define Alzheimer’s.

“The ultimate goal is to prevent the disease. Once the damage is done it’s done,” said Dr. John Stoukides, an Alzheimer’s expert from Roger Williams Medical Center.

Stoukides is taking part in a national vaccine study. Doctors hope it will stop the disease from ever developing.

“It looks great in the lab. The safety is significantly higher than previous vaccines,” he said.

Initial trials in humans have been promising. Now, they’re enrolling participants before they display significant memory loss symptoms.

Stoukides compared a 3-D scan image that showed a normal brain.

“When you look at the brain you can kind of see into it. You can see through it there especially when you look through the back. It’s very, it’s a light whispering of amyloid,” he said.

Then he showed a scan of a study participant who is likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the next few years. There was amyloid plaque everywhere.

He said he’s searching for participants for the study.

“Our goal in recruiting is to find people that are noticing a legitimate problem. They’re concerned that something’s not right in their memory. People over the age of 50 that are, you know, starting to see symptoms out of the norm for them,” Stoukides said.

The two-year long study requires an initial pet scan, a series of six vaccines over six months and a follow up pet scan.

The study is being conducted by the Rhode Island Mood and Memory Research Institute in connection with Roger Williams Medical Center. 

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