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2010 Grants - Johnson
Tracking the Progression of Early Amyloid Deposition
Keith A. Johnson, M.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital
2010 Zenith Fellows Award
Amyloid plaques in the brain are a hallmark feature of Alzheimer pathology. However, several studies have shown that amyloid plaques also occur in many elderly persons who have normal cognitive function, and who show no other evidence of Alzheimer's disease. Very little is known about how amyloid accumulates over time, or about what features of amyloid plaque are associated with brain degeneration and Alzheimer's disease.
Keith A. Johnson, M.D. and colleagues are using positron imaging tomography (PET) to study amyloid accumulation in the brain over time and its association with Alzheimer's disease. Using a marker dye known as Pittsburgh Compound (PiB), which can be used to visualize amyloid plaques using PET imaging, the researchers have begun to study amyloid plaque in the brains of living persons. They have proposed to extend these studies by performing repeated brain imaging in the same persons over many years. The goal of these studies is to understand the patterns of amyloid plaque formation, the rate of plaque formation and which features of amyloid plaque are associated with brain degeneration. To achieve this latter goal, the participants in the study will also undergo tests of brain function along with imaging studies, so that the researchers can compare brain function with plaque accumulation.
Dr. Johnson's team will use a newly developed PET camera that is more sensitive than previous models, and they will also examine how signaling molecules in the brain affect the accumulation of amyloid plaque. These studies will yield important insights into the progression of amyloid plaque pathology and how that progression affects an individual's brain function over time.