Alzheimer's can be diagnosed early

Alzheimer's can be diagnosed early

In a breakthrough, scientists for the first time claim to have diagnosed Alzheimer’s 15 years before its symptoms appear in patients.

Researchers from the Austin Hospital in Melbourne tracked the build up of a waste protein called amyloid, discovering levels that can be detected accumulating in the brains of those who go on to suffer dementia, 15 years before they suffer extensive memory loss, ‘Herald Sun’ reported.

The breakthrough meant doctors and researchers now knew who to target with emerging anti-dementia drugs, lead researcher Prof Christopher Rowe said at an international gathering of Alzheimer’s disease experts in Florence.

“If somebody was going to get Alzheimer’s disease at 70 years old, our study shows that process would actually start when they were 40, and by the age of 55 we would be able to pick it up on our amyloid PET scans, which show it building up in the brain,” Rowe said.
“The hope is that if we get in early and get people on these drugs it will stop the build up and stop them experiencing dementia,” he said

Amyloid is a waste product left over when brain membranes are replaced which are cleared by most people, but which can gradually build up in others later in life, causing dementia after 30 years.

The levels of the protein build up could be detected using PET scans 15 years before it took a toll on sufferers, according to the study of 1000 people in Melbourne and Perth, published in journal The Lancet Neurology. Rowe said blood tests were now being worked on to measure accumulating levels of amyloid as the high cost of PET scans makes them unsuitable as a routine Alzheimer’s screening test.

Several drugs are already being trialled to reduce the build up of amyloid in the same was cholesterol busting tablets work, the report said.