(NPR) — One promising test detects the protein tau, the squiggly blue lines visible here in the neurons. Another detects amyloid plaques, the brownish clumps, another hallmark of Alzheimer's. n.pr/2Jb0alQ.
Researchers are using brain scans, blood and spinal fluid to detect early signs of Alzheimer's disease. These “biomarkers” may also offer a quicker way to test new Alzheimer's drugs.
The tests rely on biomarkers, shorthand for biological markers, that signal steps along the progression of disease. These new tests are already making Alzheimer's diagnosis more accurate, and helping pharmaceutical companies test new drugs.
“For the future, we hope that we might be able to use these biomarkers in order to stop or delay the memory changes from ever happening,” says Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association. (The association is a recent NPR sponsor.)
The first Alzheimer's biomarker test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in in 2012.