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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2012 Aug;71(8):694-701. doi: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e31825e77de.

Stable size distribution of amyloid plaques over the course of Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA.


Amyloid β plaques are a key pathologic feature of Alzheimer disease (AD), but whether plaque sizes increase or stabilize over the course of AD is unknown. We measured the size distribution of total immunoreactive (10D5-positive) and dense-core (Thioflavin S-positive) plaques in the temporal neocortex of a large group of subjects with AD and age-matched plaque-bearing subjects without dementia to test the hypothesis that amyloid plaques continue to grow along with the progression of the disease. The size of amyloid β (10D5)-positive plaques did not differ between groups, whereas dense-core plaques from the group with AD were slightly larger than those from the group without dementia (∼25%-30%, p = 0.01). Within the group with AD, dense-core plaque size did not independently correlate with duration of clinical disease (from 4 to 21 years, p = 0.68), whereas 10D5-positive plaque size correlated negatively with disease duration (p = 0.01). By contrast, an earlier age of symptom onset strongly predicted a larger postmortem plaque size; this effect was independent of disease duration and the presence of the APOE[Latin Small Letter Open E]4 allele (p = 0.0001). We conclude that plaques vary in size among patients, with larger size distributions correlating with an earlier age of onset, but plaques do not substantially increase in size over the clinical course of the disease.

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