Imaging tests may be able to detect the early signs of Alzheimer's disease long before it begins to affect memory, a finding that may lead to earlier, more effective treatments, US researchers said on Monday.
They said healthy people who have an abnormal buildup of a protein in the brain linked with Alzheimer's disease have a higher risk of developing the disease.
"Our paper shows for the time that people who during life are known to have amyloid plaques in the brain -- the plaques of Alzheimer's disease -- have a very high risk of developing dementia in just a few years," said John Morris, director of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, whose study appears in the journal Archives of Neurology.
Several teams have been working on better ways to detect early-state Alzheimer's disease in hopes of developing drugs that can fight it before it causes too much damage.
"We know that at the time when we first can detect symptoms, certain vulnerable regions of the brain are pretty damaged by the Alzheimer's pathologic process. In some brain regions at that very earliest stage, already 50 percent of brain cells have bene lost," Morris said in a telephone interview.