A diagnostic breakthrough catches Alzheimer's early

More than five million Americans struggle with the memory loss and confusion associated with Alzheimer’s. But now, a diagnostic breakthrough could help slow down the rate of progress of the devastating disease.

Liebe Ostrow Miller’s husband has Alzheimer’s, a disease which has taken away his short term memory.

"Sometimes I feel like a widow, but with a live husband,” says Liebe. Her husband was Dr. Paul Schulz’s first patient to have the Amyvid Test

"It's chilling. It puts a chill through you the first time you see this," says Dr. Schultz, a neurologist at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute.

The Amyvid Test is the first test to diagnose Alzheimer’s that does not require a brain biopsy or an autopsy. A liquid agent is injected into a patient and binds to the amyloid protein in the brain.

According to Dr. Schulz the process is fairly simple, "We bring them in, they lay in a scanner for ten minutes and you're done."

Doctors can then look at the scans and identify where the amyloid build up is located.

"If you have a significant amount of it, that's pretty specific for Alzheimer's disease,” Dr. Schulz added.

The Amyvid Test can help catch the disease earlier and get patients on the right drug therapies to help delay symptoms longer. Dr. Schulz added that the word “breakthrough” is not a big enough term for the promise the diagnostic test offers.

When Dr. Schultz read Liebe’s husband’s scan he said, “my heart sunk.” The Amyvid Test revealed that her husband did in fact have Alzheimer’s.

Liebe says unfortunately her husband is too far along for the Amyvid results to help him find a better treatment.

Dr. Schulz believes Amyvid is by far the most accurate test for screening Alzheimer’s in the living, but brain biopsies are still the gold standard because they do not have the potential for a false positive.

He says the test could be tricked by someone without cognitive problems who has a lot of amyloid build up. For that reason, Schulz only uses Amyvid on patients who have Alzheimer’s symptoms.

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