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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2005;70:171-213.

Amyloid imaging: from benchtop to bedside.

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  • 1Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Tremendous efforts have been made in the search for a cure or effective treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) to develop therapies aimed at halting or reversing amyloid plaque deposition in the brain. This necessitates in vivo detection and quantification of amyloid plaques in the brain for efficacy evaluation of anti-amyloid therapies. For this purpose, a wide array of amyloid-imaging probes has been developed, mainly for in vivo studies based on positron emission tomography and single photon emission computed tomography. This review provides a full account of the development of amyloid-imaging agents. The in vitro binding properties and in vivo pharmacokinetic profiles of all amyloid-imaging agents so far reported are comprehensively and uniquely surveyed. Emphasis is placed on the development of small-molecule probes based on amyloid dyes, such as Congo red and thioflavin T. Compared to large biomolecules, these small-molecule probes have been systematically investigated through extensive structure activity relationship studies. Many of the probes show favorable properties for in vivo studies. As a result, three lead compounds, termed PIB (Pittsburgh-Compound B, [(11)C]6-OH-BTA-1), FDDNP (2-(1-[6-[(2-[(18)F]fluoroethyl)(methyl)amino]-2-naphthyl]ethylidene)malononitrile), and SB-13 (4-N-methylamino-4'-hydroxystilbene), have been identified and evaluated in human subjects. Preliminary studies have indicated that these lead compounds exhibit a characteristic retention in AD subjects that is consistent with the AD pathology, thus proving the concept that amyloid deposits in the brain can be readily detected and quantified in vivo. The progress to date paves the way for further investigation in various aspects of AD research. Once developed, these amyloid-imaging agents could be used as biomarkers to aid in early and definitive diagnosis of AD, facilitate drug discovery and development, and allow pathophysiological studies of the disease mechanism. Furthermore, the success in the development of amyloid-imaging agents helps with the development of imaging agents for in vivo studies of other AD pathologies in particular and of neurodegenerative disorders in general.

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