New test for Alzheimer’s

Despite a better understanding of, and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, many older people are reluctant explore if their memory loss, vagueness and the inability to follow instructions are simply an indication of old age or the onset of dementia.

The science of medical diagnosis is continually evolving, with new diagnostic methods being developed daily, many of which never make it past the inception stage. At a recent conference in Honolulu, a small Philadelphia-based company presented data on a radioactive-dye which could be an important tool in the diagnosis of the disease. But just how does it work?

When autopsied, suffers of Alzheimer’s disease are found to have a sticky protein called beta-amyloid on their brain. The radioactive dye, which adheres to the beta-amyloid, can be traced by means of a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan and the areas are shown on screen as brighter plaques. The initial results are positive, with a 97 per cent match between those scanned and pathology examination results.

If the new tracer is approved for marketing, then this procedure would be an additional tool to confirm a suspected diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Find out more about Alzheimer’s disease.