Copper isotope can detect the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's disease (AD) or prone patients, as per a study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by the formation of beta-amyloid plaques and the tau proteins in the affected brain tissue. Isotopes are chemical elements that emit positively charged particles called positrons that are measured via positron emission tomography (PET) scanners.
Generally, PET scanners utilize carbon or fluorine isotopes for approved use in humans. Nevertheless, the researchers conducted a preclinical study in the mouse model of Alzheimer's disease to demonstrate that the copper isotope - Cu-64 can last much longer than the conventional isotopes. This allows benefits to the patients living far from the medical centers.
For any agents to enter the brain, it requires a smaller size and ability to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) - a selectively permeable border that allows only particular molecules to enter the brain. The use of copper compounds in the diagnosis of AD among living patients had its complications, one of them being the agents' low affinity for amyloid deposits.
The copper agents have two ends - the amyloid-binding fragment and the copper-binding region, the latter interfering with the former binding regions. However, these shortcomings were overcome by the researchers, that enhanced the ability of the isotopes to cross the blood-brain barrier.
"If we do live PET imaging of mice with and without Alzheimer's disease pathologies, we see a statistically significant difference in signal intensity", said Liviu Mirica, a chemistry professor who led the new study. Further researches are required to enhance the compound's properties and it promises a viable, longer-lasting alternative to current diagnostic agents.