An Australian study has found that a novel neuro-imaging technique called PiB PET, may help spot Alzheimer's disease 18 months before symptoms become obvious.
Professor David Ames, a professor of ageing and health at the University of Melbourne, says that tests on elderly Australians suggest that the such a scanning technique could allow for treatments with new drugs before he symptoms even show.
"We don't have those drugs yet but they're not far away, and when they arrive, we'll know exactly who needs them. And the most important thing is that we'll know before their symptoms even show, when we've got the best chance of slowing or stopping the progression of the disease," News.com.au quoted Ames as saying.
He says that he and his university colleagues used the PiB PET technique to test a 30 older persons for levels of beta-amyloid, a sticky substance found in high concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
The researcher points out that the toxic protein, though known to be linked with Alzheimer's, has been shown to be present in living brains for the first time through this scanning technique.
Prof. Ames has revealed that almost all of the patients with a positive scans developed the disease 21 months later.
He says that half of those who did not have memory problems, but tested positive, also went on to be diagnosed.
Almost all the people with a negative scan were still disease clear at the same point.
"It's not huge numbers but it's got the potential to wind back the diagnosis by at least a year of two, and that might be very important in terms of being able to intervene," Prof. Ames said.
He also revealed that three promising strategies to detoxify beta-amyloid, rid it from the body or stop its production were in the pipeline.
He said that such strategies would work alongside the PiB PET technology.
According to him, the test and the drugs may be available in the next five to ten years.
A presentation on the new research project would be made at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Chicago next month.