Gene discovery, new scan provide hope for Alzheimer's patients

10:18 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In the same week that scientists identified a new gene variant that seems to strongly raise the risk for Alzheimer's disease, a Twin Cities clinic performed a groundbreaking scan that doctors say could lead to earlier diagnoses of the disease.

"This is a big deal, because up until now, we've never had a really good way to image Alzheimer's Disease," said Dr. Geoffrey Bodeau, Medical Director at Lifescan Minnesota.

On Wednesday, Lifescan Minnesota performed the so-called "Amyvid" scan on three possible Alzheimer's patients.  The Mayo Clinic in Rochester has also used the scan, since the FDA approved the radioactive imaging agent in April.

"Up until now, we haven't been able to image the amyloid plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease," Bodeau said, adding, "if we can get the correct diagnosis, then we can get improved treatments and hopefully buy people more time."

Also this week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study by an international group about a new gene discovery. The problem gene is not common - less than 1 percent of people are thought to have it - but it roughly triples the chances of developing Alzheimer's compared to people with the normal version of the gene. It also seems to harm memory and thinking in older people without dementia.

All of the research is seen as promising to people like Tammy Lofthus, whose 83-year-old mother, Florence, suffers from dementia.

"You have that person, but they're not your mom, because the mind isn't there," Lofthus said.

"The more we know about it, the better it is for all of us," she said.

Lofthus has relied on services available through Home Instead Senior Care. Experts do recommend families dealing with Alzheimer's Disease consider outside support groups and resources. For more information, just go to:

You can also check out the Alzheimer's Association, at:

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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