Newly developed fluorescent compounds may help doctors track Alzheimer's disease as it advances in living patients, a recent study reveals.

Tests showed that these compounds highlighted so-called tau protein clusters on PET scans of the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

The study was published in the journal Neuron.

In the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients, tau proteins clump together and become tangled. These tau tangles are an important marker of brain deterioration in people with the disease. Until now, it was difficult to monitor tau tangles while patients are still alive.

These new fluorescent compounds may help doctors track the processes that occur in the brain during the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease, according to a journal news release.

This ability could prove helpful in diagnosing the disease, monitoring the effectiveness of treatments, and testing new drugs to prevent and treat the disease, according to study senior author Dr. Makoto Higuchi, of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan, and colleagues.

Tau tangles also play a role in other types of dementias and movement disorders. These new fluorescent compounds could also help doctors diagnose, monitor and treat these diseases, the researchers noted.

Another protein called amyloid beta accumulates into plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Imaging technologies have also been developed to observe the spread of amyloid beta plaques in patients' brains.

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease at its website http://

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