Progress with two new tau imaging agents for Alzheimer's disease

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 01, 2016
Alzheimers/Neurology Molecular Imaging
The telltale sign of Alzheimer's disease is the presence of amyloid beta and tau proteins in the brain, but it's still unclear as to whether tau imaging should be the standard for diagnosing the disease. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis set out to gain some clarity.

They evaluated the effectiveness of the PET imaging agent, [18F]-AV-1451, in staging Alzheimer's and determining the connections between amyloid beta, tau and volume loss in the brain. The study included 59 patients — mostly older men — who were cognitively normal or had Alzheimer's/dementia.

The findings revealed that PET imaging along with [18F]-AV-1451 distinguishes patients with Alzheimer's from those who were cognitively normal. In addition, an elevated [18F]-AV-1451 binding signified volume loss in parts of the brain.
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"Overall, our work suggests that [18F]-AV-1451 is a valuable tool in tracking the continuum of the neurodegenerative process that ranges from the preclinical to clinical phase of [Alzheimer's]," the researchers concluded.

Another PET imaging agent for assessing tau called [18F]MK-6240 is on the horizon. Enigma Biomedical Group Inc. announced a collaboration with Biogen Inc. and Merck [today] to validate and clinically qualify the investigational imaging agent.

They will test how well the imaging agent evaluates the status and progression of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in the brain. NFTs that consist of aggregated tau protein are a hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's.

“We hope that by advancing the scientific understanding of these kinds of tools we are able to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases,” Richard Hargreaves, vice president of global biomarker discovery and development at Biogen, said in a statement.

Previous study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry found that [18F]MK-6240 showed promise. Merck researchers are currently conducting an open-label Phase 1 study to investigate its safety and efficacy for quantifying the brain burden of NFT pathology.

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