Imaging Tau with PET Scans

Some news was released yesterday about using a PET scan to detect tau in the brain.  Tau is the protein involved in PSP and CBD.  Tau is one of the two proteins involved in Alzheimer’s Disease; the other is amyloid.

If I’m counting correctly, yesterday’s news is a third approach to detecting tau in the brain with a PET.  This third approach was developed largely by Japanese scientists.  The second approach was developed by UC Irvine and uses Siemens technology.  And the first approach was developed by UCLA but that approach seems to have no endorsement outside of UCLA.  (I was told by some local neurologists that the UCLA approach is a “non-starter.”)

The third approach was described in the journal Neuron yesterday.  Here’s a link to the abstract and the figures and tables from the article, but not the article itself:

From the abstract and highlights of the article, we know that the Japanese researchers used this PET imaging approach to illuminate tau tangles in mice with a tauopathy and in living Alzheimer’s patients, comparing them to normal controls.  They also saw tau illuminated in a corticobasal syndrome patient who did not have amyloid plaques, based on a different PET scan.

I believe this new tau ligand (or radioactive substance) is known as PBB.  This is very confusing because the amyloid ligand is known as PIB.

Below I’ve copied links to two very understandable lay articles on this tau imaging study — one from the BBC and one from Forbes magazine.  The angle in both of these articles is Alzheimer’s Disease as that’s where lots of research dollars are going.



Alzheimer’s brain scan detects tau protein
BBC News
By James Gallagher, Health and science reporter
18 September 2013

New Brain Imaging For Alzheimer’s Disease May Pave The Way For Earlier Diagnosis
Alice G. Walton, Contributor
9/19/2013 @ 12:47PM