New Alzheimer's studies offer hope of early detection

July 11, 2012

Progress with the devastating mind-robbing disease often seems painstakingly slow, but scientists say major research efforts are starting to pay off.

A study coming out in the New England Journal of Medicine gives a glimpse of a possible timeline for the disease.

If offers the chance of predicting who will develop Alzheimer's decades before it happens.

The research looks at a small group of patients who have a rare genetic form of Alzheimer's. They found biomarkers, or signs of the disease, in the brain long before there are any real symptoms of dementia.

It is what researchers have believed for years and the confirmation may be vital in the development of treatments.

"This is a very important finding. The good news here is that means we have a window of opportunity for many years during which we could use some treatment that could slow the progression of the disease, and may even have a situation where a person will never feel memory loss," said Dr. Marsel Mesulam, director of Northwestern's Alzheimer's Disease Center.

There still isn't any medication to stop the disease, but results of several Alzheimer's drugs are reportedly coming within weeks.

Two of the drugs are designed to clear a hallmark of the disease, the sticky plaque that accumulates in patient's brains.

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