This study describes the synthesis and in vitro testing of small molecule probes that may eventually prove useful as markers of amyloid deposition in living patients. The prototype agent, Chrysamine G (CG), is a derivative of Congo red. CG binds synthetic beta-amyloid well in vitro, as does a fluorinated derivative. The mechanism of binding appears to be the same as Congo red--through a bidentate attachment spanning several amyloid peptide chains. CG is much more lipophilic than Congo red and crosses the blood-brain barrier in normal mice, achieving a brain/blood ratio over 10/1. There was no acute toxicity in mice at doses 10 times those used in the distribution studies. CG appears to be a relatively high affinity probe for beta-amyloid that appears to have low toxicity and can cross the blood-brain barrier. These characteristics are promising for development of in vivo amyloid probes similar to CG.