New test aims to diagnose Alzheimer's in the living - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

New test aims to diagnose Alzheimer's in the living

WINSTON-SALEM, NC (NBC)- Diagnosing Alzheimer's disease can be confusing and difficult before the patient has died. A new test might change all of that.

"We really struggle with an effective way of diagnosing it, particularly in the early stages," said Dr. David W. Lacey of Wake Forest University.

A new imaging test that uses a special dye, called florbetapir, highlights beta amyloid in the brains of living adults.

"What this provides is a way in living individuals to determine that there is beta amyloid in their brains, and this would increase the diagnostic accuracy," Dr. Neil Buckholtz, one of the researchers.

Beta amyloid is a brain plaque that researchers hope will clear the confusion.

"This beta amyloid can distinguish those with Alzheimer's from those with other kinds of dementias," said Dr. Neil Buckholtz.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are similar, but the treatment options are very different.

In a recent study, the new scans were found to match autopsy results 96 percent of the time.

While promising, experts say it is not a screening tool for the general population.

Experts also say this test is not the breakthrough they've been waiting for, but they're hopeful it can help clear a path through the Alzheimer's fog.

There are still hurdles to overcome with the brain test, like making sure all scans are interpreted using the same standards.

Until researchers learn more about the role of beta amyloid in Alzheimer's disease, the brain scan might be used for research only.

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