Thursday, June 26, 2008

Researchers Develop Tool for Potentially Diagnosing Alzheimer's

Right now it is very difficult for doctors to know for sure if a patient has Alzheimer's disease. Plenty of other neurodegenerative diseases can cause dementia, so doctors are generally guessing when they diagnose patients. In fact, the only way to be sure is to cut the brain of the patient open after death and look for the amyloid beta plaques that are associated with the disease.

That may all be about to change.According to a study being conducted at the VA Medical Center in Massachusetts, a band of harmless lasers placed around a patient's head may be able to differentiate healthy brain tissue from tissue covered with amyloid beta plaques.

If the study confirms the results, it will be a huge boost in diagnosis of this terrible disease, and could allow doctors to get a jump on treatment, as well as prevent misdiagnoses that lead to treatments for the wrong illnesses. But while this technique could be used to spot the plaques in the brain, not all of the plaques cause Alzheimer's disease, so the device will still not have 100 percent accuracy. Still, anything is better than just guessing.

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