Detecting Dementia

A team of researchers has developed an imaging technique that clearly shows the tangles of plaque that are a defining feature of Alzheimer’s — a huge breakthrough for both clinicians and researchers, and for people with other conditions, such as Parkinson’s.

For clinicians, the technique allows for the first time a non-invasive means of diagnosing Alzheimer’s, which until now could only be corroborated after death with an autopsy.

A reliable diagnosis, and a reliable means of tracking that degeneration over time, means that doctors can intervene earlier with therapies that might alter the course of the disease — or to even know that the intervention works at all.

The plaques that develop in Alzheimer’s aren’t all that different from the plaques that develop in Parkinson’s, so there is hope that this research might pay dividends in the PD world. But almost as important is that the technique allows doctors to know for certain whether a PD patient’s dementia is being caused by Alzheimer’s.

In recounting the story that led to the breakthrough, the article is a good reminder of the dedication of researchers with a vision, and the risks that they bear as they pursue that vision.

Promise Seen for Detection of Alzheimer’s – NYTimes.com.