London: Scientists are developing a new brain scanning technique which they say could help detect Alzheimer`s disease about 10 years in advance.
Researchers who are developing the positron emission tomography (PET) scans said it can predict who is likely to suffer from the debilitating disease up to a decade before
symptoms begin to show themselves.
The new technique, expected to be available within 12 months, will allow potential Alzheimer sufferers time to make preparations for its devastating effects and could eventually lead to early treatments and even a cure, the Daily Telegraph reported.
A number of researchers around the world – including teams in Britain -- are working on the use of positron emission tomography (PET) scans to monitor the condition.
The new studies, carried out by the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, claimed to have perfected the technique.
They used the PET machine to monitor the build up of the protein Amyloid-beta which is known to be connected to dementia and cognitive decline.
It is believed that the protein causes tangling in the brain, effectively silting it up and blocking normal thought processes.
In their experiments, the researchers took hundred of volunteers -- some of whom were healthy and some of whom had mild cognitive impairment and gave them a battery of
psychological and neurological tests.
They were then followed for a number of years, had their brains scanned regularly and were given memory and cognition tests.
It was found that people with high build up of plaques earlier on were more likely to develop memory problems and Alzheimer`s Disease.
Professor David Brooks, of Imperial College London, who is carrying out similar work, said that it is thought that the scans could predict Alzheimer`s 10 years in advance.
"When and if there was some way of treating the amyloid proteins then it could be very exciting," he said.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer`s Research UK, said: "Alzheimer`s Research UK is supporting work using PET scans and we hope that these state-of-the-art
techniques will help researchers diagnose Alzheimer`s at the very earliest stages.
"Using these scans not only helps scientists with diagnosis but it also provides a picture of what is happening in the brain during disease."
The research was presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine annual conference in San Antonio, Texas.