MRIs Hold Promise of Early Alzheimer's Detection

Brain plaque spotted in rabbits
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2008 2:01 AM CDT
Jackie Lustig helps her mother Jeannette Zeltzer, 81, who suffers from Alzheimer's. New research offers hope for early diagnosis using MRIs.    (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)
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(Newser) – Researchers are a step closer to early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease using conventional MRI scanners. Plaque associated with Alzheimer's has been detected in rabbits by a team in Canada using MRI equipment, Reuters reports. Currently, the disease is diagnosed based on a series of tests, but a diagnosis can only be confirmed by an autopsy.   

Researchers fed rabbits a high-cholesterol diet for two years, which caused them to form amyloid plaques—or void areas—in their brains. Scans revealed these plaques as black spots in several areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, a key memory center. Rabbits fed a normal diet had no amyloid plaques.