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Hope for Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease

A new $10 million research project which aims at early detection of Alzheimer's and its causes, has been launched by the Preventative Health //Flagship, a CSIRO program of health research, in Australia. This study will focus on the early detection of Alzheimer's disease, which currently affects 150,000 Australians.

During this three-year study, researchers will be using Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans) on 1000 volunteers from Victoria and Western Australia, to study the development of the disease in people.

Professor Ashley Bush, one of the project's Melbourne-based researchers, said the new study would generate hope for elderly Australians.

'Australia is particularly struck down by this because we've got a very ageing demography.' Alzheimer's is turning to an epidemic because people are more successfully reaching old age,' he said.

Using a new model of PET scan, doctors at Melbourne's Austin Hospital found one in five people over 65 without any memory problems had early signs of Alzheimer's. They had traces of a protein called amyloid in their brains, thought to cause Alzheimer's disease.

'This is quite exciting because it means that we are picking up the disease before there is damage done to the brain,' Associate Professor Christopher Rowe said, 'It gives us the opportunity to treat it while the nerves of the brain are quite functional.'

The findings were released today in connection with the launching of the project. /ASH/L

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