Alzheimer’s disease starts forming in the brains of unsuspecting individuals about 20 years before traditional telltale signs become noticeable. No cure exists for the progressive, fatal disease, but St. Louis medical researchers are studying tools and potential drugs that can detect and treat Alzheimer’s in its early stages.
“The tests are getting better and better,” says Dr. Suzanne E. Schindler, a neurologist and Alzheimer’s specialist with Washington University School of Medicine. A blood test developed at Wash. U., for example, can assess whether amyloid plaques are accumulating in a patient’s brain. An alternative to more expensive PET brain scans and invasive spinal taps, the test has proven accurate in detecting early signs of the disease.