A New Test For Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's Patient CBS

For those growing old, like Anton Brasunas, the most common of descriptions are often the most frightening.

"Well I forget a lot of things for one thing — I guess that's the main thing," admitted Anton.

Anton was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago as part of a study at Washington University in Saint Louis, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

When Anton first came into the study, they asked him if he was having problems with his memory or thinking. He said, "No other people are."

Alzheimer's Warning Signs
An estimated 4 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's. The disease usually begins after age 65, and the risk of developing Alzheimer's goes up with age. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's Disease.

Click here to learn about the warning signs of Alzheimer's Disease.
He meant his wife, who noticed troubling signs. "Can't remember times when he's supposed to be places and forgets where he puts things, loses things and sort of doesn't keep track of time," recalled Ellen Brasunas.

Doctors diagnosed Anton with something called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). At the time, thought to be a separate, less severe memory loss condition.

But as researchers followed 225 subjects further, they found nearly all diagnosed with MCI, like Anton, eventually ended up with Alzheimer's — they weren't separate syndromes at all.

Mild Cognitive Impairment
Click here to read the entire study conducted by Washington University on Mild Cognitive Imapairment and how it could lead to Alzheimer's.
"Virtually all of them are going to get worse. That isit seemed like this is the earliest symptom of Alzheimer's Disease," explained Dr. John Morris of Washington University.

Since only an autopsy provides proof positive of Alzheimer's, this could be huge. A tool to diagnose Alzheimer's earlier than ever, coupled with new drugs that better manage the ravaging symptoms, might literally be life-saving news.

"Now with Alzheimer's we'll be able to intervene early enough so that a person can live an extra 10 or 15 years of a productive life," predicts Zaven Khachaturian of the Alzheimer's Association.

If further research conclusively proves MCI is early stage Alzheimer's, it would change the way we think about the disease in America. For starters, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's, 4 million or so, would double — perhaps even triple.



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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