Eventually she learned to cope. She started to take better care of herself, exercising and improving her diet, meditating and doing brain-twisting puzzles purported to strengthen memory and focus. And she became involved with research into the disease. She founded B.A.B.E.S., Beating Alzheimer’s By Embracing Science, a non-profit that supports research into the disease and encourages people to get involved.
Tyrone wants others to learn from her experience.
“I’m choosing to heal by talking about it,” she says. “I don’t want people to go through what I went through.”
New Ways to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease
The biggest advance toward the early prediction of Alzheimer's, Hartley says, is using PET scans to show the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain. The plaques are a risk factor for the disease, and in the past they could be seen only during an autopsy.
“This is an opportunity to see into the live brain,” Hartley says.
“PET imaging with amyloid will be the first way of approaching prediction,” Apostolova says. MRI will also be useful, she says, as will PET imaging for tau proteins, another sign of disease.
But, she continues, amyloid PET scans are expensive, not readily available, and they expose patients to radiation.
“What if there’s another way to get at the answer of who’s at risk?” she asks.
Research Apostolova led while at UCLA resulted in a simple blood test that picks up biomarkers -- or proteins in the blood -- linked to Alzheimer’s. Along with other tests, it one day may help predict the disease. She published her early findings in January in the journal Neurology.
Researchers are studying several other new tests:
- A saliva test that identifies biomarkers linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- A combination of cognitive tests, MRI scans, and analysis of proteins found in cerebrospinal fluid -- fluid in the brain and spinal cord that can predict mild cognitive impairment, or thinking problems, 5 years before symptoms become apparent.
- Measurements of the protein neurogranin, a potential Alzheimer’s biomarker found in fluid in the brain and spinal cord.
- Tests that uncover the deterioration of your sense of smell may indicate Alzheimer’s.
- Eye exams that can measure beta amyloid buildup.
All of these tests remain experimental, and their effectiveness remains to be seen.
“Saliva tests, blood tests, and things like that are not ready for prime time,” Hartley says.