New Test May Catch Alzheimer's Sooner

Tim Watt  |  April 23, 2012

Researchers at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute believe they have found a new method for detecting Alzheimer's disease earlier, which could help caregivers and seniors prepare for the disease in advance.

Alzheimer's disease diagnosis is notoriously tricky. Symptoms may begin to appear early on, but doctors cannot definitively diagnose the disease until an autopsy has been performed on the brain and presence of beta-amyloid plaques is confirmed. However, researchers believe that using the drug florbetaben as a tracer during a PET scan may be able to catch the disease before then.

The study involved 200 patients near death, including a mix of those suspected to have Alzheimer's disease and those with no signs of dementia. These patients underwent the PET scan and received florbetaben, with the researchers using this to mark whether Alzheimer's was suspected or not. The study participants then underwent brain autopsies after they died to see if the researchers' florbetaben test was correct or not.

In the cases in which Alzheimer's disease was present, the florbetaben test was correct 100 percent of the time. In those that did not have Alzheimer's, the test was correct 92 percent of the time - meaning there were a few misdiagnoses, but no missed ones.

"This is an easy, non-invasive way to assist an Alzheimer's diagnosis at an early stage," lead author Marwan Sabbagh told ScienceDaily. "Also exciting is the possibility of using florbetaben as a tool in future therapeutic clinical research studies where therapy goals focus on reducing levels of beta-amyloid in the brain."

Often, dealing with dementia means that caregivers need to enlist the help of an Alzheimer's care facility. This new test may help caregivers realize their senior is afflicted with the disease sooner, which can ensure they get the help they need more quickly.

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