WASHINGTON - Alzheimer's disease, which can be confirmed only after death, could be diagnosed in its early stages if a new test works as well in humans as animals. Researchers hope early diagnoses could lead to treatments that would delay the fatal disease.
Scientists were able to diagnose the disease in mice using a chemical called PIB, which was able to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to the amyloid plaques in the animals' brains. The plaques, believed to be a cause of Alzheimer's, were identified by detecting the PIB.
The chemical quickly cleared out of the brains of mice without the disease, according to researchers led by Dr. Brian Bacskai at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The next step, under way in Pittsburgh and in Uppsala, Sweden, is to test the chemical in people.
Alzheimer's sometimes is indicated by symptoms, but a definite diagnosis can be made only after death by inspecting the victim's brain.
While medicine has no current therapy for Alzheimer's, approaches from drugs to a vaccine are being studied.
The findings were published in this week's online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.