In a welcome development, UK researchers believe they can now detect Alzheimer's disease at its earliest stage, many years before symptoms appear.
They reckon that a lumbar puncture test combined with a brain scan can identify patients with early tell-tale signs of dementia, reports the BBC.
Jonathan Schott and colleagues at the Institute of Neurology, University College of London, have claimed that they have found a way to check for Alzheimer's years before symptoms appear.
Their approach checks for two things-shrinkage of the brain and lower than normal levels of a protein, called amyloid, in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
Experts already know that in Alzheimer's there is loss of brain volume and an unusual build up of amyloid in the brain, meaning less amyloid in the CSF.
Schott's team recruited 105 healthy volunteers to undergo a series of checks, in order to establish their hypothesis.
The volunteers had lumbar puncture tests to check their CSF for levels of amyloid and MRI brain scans to calculate brain shrinkage.
The results revealed that the brains of those normal individuals with low CSF levels of amyloid shrank twice as quickly as the other group.
They were also five times more likely to possess the APOE4 risk gene and had higher levels of another culprit Alzheimer's protein, tau.
Experts are also looking at whether a different type of brain scan might instead be used to detect amyloid.
Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "We are hamstrung by our inability to accurately detect Alzheimer's, but these findings could prove to be pivotal. We know that treatments for many diseases can be more successful if given early and this is likely to be true for Alzheimer's."
The findings were published in the Annals of Neurology.