A Breakthrough In Alzheimer's Research

We've been following the story of Walter Gibbs for nearly a month now. Family members haven't seen Gibbs since he drove away from his McClure home in mid-December. Gibbs is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and his family thinks he may have wandered off and not realize where he is. Crews have been searching for him in Illinois and Missouri. Most recently they've been searching along the Mississippi river, but so far they've had no luck finding him. However, there is a bit of good news to report in the fight against Alzheimer's. For the first time ever, researchers have found a way to detect Alzheimer's in living people, and that could mean that doctor's will be able to slow down the disease before it takes over a person's thoughts and actions.

Dr. Gary Small, an Alzheimer's researcher at UCLA says, "To actually show this is in a human living patient, this has never been done until now." Until now, the only way to diagnosis someone with Alzheimer's was by looking at their brain after they've died. Now, using new imaging technology, doctors may be able to tell if someone has Alzheimer's, while they're still living. "This is a way to improve diagnosis," Dr. Small says.

Here's how it works. A radioactive chemical marker is injected into the patient, then the patient is given a PET scan. This process allows doctors to identify the brain lesions linked to the disease. Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Morrison says, "It's critically important to be able to detect it early and intervene early." This new technology could allow doctors to do that, and be able to get patients on the right medication. It could also mean that doctors will be able to see which medications are working the best, and what they could do to improve them, to hopefully catch the disease before it takes over a person's mind. Dr. Morrison says, "This tool, as it evolves will be able to provide a way to follow a patient over time." The study only involved nine people, but still it's very promising news in Alzheimer's research.