Background: Recently, modifications of Aβ1-42 levels in CSF and plasma associated with improvement in memory and language functions have been observed in patients with mild-moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD) treated with plasma exchange (PE) with albumin replacement.
Objective: To detect structural and functional brain changes in PE-treated AD patients as part of a Phase II clinical trial.
Methods: Patients received between 3 and 18 PE with albumin (Albutein® 5%, Grifols) or sham-PE (controls) for 21 weeks (divided in one intensive and two maintenance periods) followed by 6-month follow-up. Brain perfusion assessed by SPECT scans using an automated software (NeuroGam®) and brain structural changes assessed by MRI were performed at weeks 0 (baseline), 21, and 44 (with additional SPECT at weeks 9 and 33). Statistical parametric mapping (voxel-based analysis, SPM) and Z-scores calculations were applied to investigate changes to baseline.
Results: 42 patients were recruited (39 evaluable; 37 analyzed: 18 PE-treated; 19 controls). There was a trend toward decreasing hippocampi and total intracranial volume for both patient groups during the study (p < 0.05). After six months, PE-treated patients had less cerebral perfusion loss than controls in frontal, temporal, and parietal areas, and perfusion stabilization in Brodmann area BA38-R during the PE-treatment period (p < 0.05). SPM analysis showed stabilization or absence of progression of perfusion loss in PE-treated patients until week 21, not observed in controls.
Conclusions: Mild-moderate AD patients showed decreased brain volume and impairment of brain perfusion as expected for the progression of the disease. PE-treatment with albumin replacement favored the stabilization of perfusion.
Keywords: Albumin; Alzheimer’s disease; magnetic resonance imaging; plasma exchange; single-photon emission computed tomography.