A new US study has been published that claims to have uncovered the key to improved early detection of Alzheimer's disease in patients.
Researchers at California University in San Francisco have published details of their findings, which highlight a potential new test that could pinpoint disease sufferers before the first symptoms of the degenerative neurological condition are able to develop.
Using fluorescent dyes that are injected into the patient, the team were able to identify the buildup of rogue proteins within the patient's brain that play a founding role in the development of Alzheimer's.
The tests use the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging and scanning technique to identify amyloid beta proteins within the brain, which have been shown to be a determining factor in the progression of Alzheimer's disease in patients.
Professor William DeGrado of California University in San Francisco said: "Our studies show the immediate need for clinical PET probes that can detect a broader spectrum of pathological amyloid beta strains.
"Probes that are more sensitive will result in earlier Alzheimer's disease detection, providing a longer timeframe for therapeutic interventions in mild, or even subclinical, patients."
Overall, earlier detection of Alzheimer's disease could be crucial in helping individuals to reduce the impact of their condition, helping them to better prepare for the future and take steps to slow the progression of what can be a harrowing disease.
Indeed, Dr Carol Routledge of Alzheimer's Research UK stated: "Stopping or slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease is critical, and key to doing this is understanding how different forms of toxic proteins spread through the brain.
"The buildup of amyloid is one of the first changes in Alzheimer's, but why it happens and how it spreads is still not fully understood."
Ensuring patients that are undergoing a buildup of these proteins can be more swiftly identified is therefore an extremely positive step in improving rates for early diagnosis and treatment.
However, while this is a positive step forward for the possible future treatment of Alzheimer's disease in patients, it follows the news that Pfizer will be bringing an end to its existing neuroscience discovery programme, including research into Alzheimer's disease treatment.
Responding to the company's announcement, Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, commented: "'Of course it's disappointing to hear that Pfizer ... will be terminating their research efforts in neuroscience, including Alzheimer's disease drug discovery.
"There are still many reasons for people and families affected by dementia to maintain hope. The G7 nations have committed to finding a disease modifying treatment by 2025 and this is still within reach, as long as research investment is increased and sustained across the board."
Dr Pickett concluded that a diagnosis of dementia currently takes place every three seconds somewhere around the world and, as a result, there has never been a more important time for researchers and pharmaceutical developers to come together in tackling the issues of degenerative cognitive illness.
He went on to add that new breakthroughs in the treatment and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease could be of benefit to millions of people in the years ahead.