Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have led an international study for a new brain imaging method designed to enable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

The technique displays the spread of specific tau protein deposits associated with Alzheimer’s.

Tau is known to spread during the later stage of the disease when neurons start dying and patients experience symptoms.

“Findings demonstrated good sensitivity and specificity of the new tau-PET method, which was able to identify 90% to 95% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Lund University senior researcher Rik Ossenkoppele said: “If we scan a patient with memory difficulties and he or she proves to have a lot of tau in the brain, we know with a high degree of certainty that it is a case of Alzheimer’s.”

During the study, the team performed brain imaging of more than 700 patients using a PET scanner, which requires the administration of radioactive markers to the patient.

Findings demonstrated good sensitivity and specificity of the new tau-PET method, which was able to identify 90% to 95% of patients with the disease.

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In addition, the approach is said to have delivered only a few false positive results in patients with other diseases.

Lund University Clinical Memory Research Unit neurology professor Oskar Hansson said: “If you are found to have tau in the brain according to tau-PET, it is, with few exceptions, due to Alzheimer’s disease.

If you have normal tau-PET and mild to moderate dementia, your memory problems are most likely due to other neurological diseases.”

The researchers expect the tau-PET method to help in Alzheimer’s diagnosis, thereby allowing treatment of the disease. It can also be used in clinical trials for assessing the effectiveness of the drug candidates by checking the spread of tau.