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Researchers make Alzheimer's detection breakt -

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ELEANOR HALL: Australian researchers say they have discovered a way of detecting Alzheimer's
Disease, before symptoms develop; giving doctors a better chance of delaying the onset of the
disease.

They're releasing their study in Canberra today and they say it could not only help those with the
disease but also bring significant financial savings in their treatment.

As Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: It's a debilitating disease that affects more than 200,000 Australians. But now a team
of researchers has discovered a technique of detecting those at risk of developing Alzheimer's
Disease. It's through a neuroimaging scan.

Professor David Ames is the director of the National Ageing Research Institute and the leader of
the research team.

DAVID AMES: Alzheimer's Disease is caused by abnormal protein which is a toxic breakdown product of
the normal protein in the body that damages brain cells over time, and accumulates in the brain and
the PIB-PET scan, binds to this protein and you can see it in the brain.

Now we think the protein is building up for years before people actually develop symptoms of
Alzheimer's Disease and the exciting findings to date, which are really just the beginning of this
study, are that if you've got a pre-Alzheimer's condition called mild cognitive impairment and
you've got this stuff in your brain, then almost always within 20-odd months you develop
Alzheimer's disease.

LINDY KERIN: Professor Ames says the technique can identify those who will develop Alzheimer's up
to 18 months earlier than currently available diagnostics. He says it could allow doctors to
identify and treat patients with Alzheimer's, before they display any signs of memory loss.

DAVID AMES: Within the next three to five years, there are going to be disease modifying
Alzheimer's treatments that are being tested in people with Alzheimer's Disease that might be able
to be given to people who are at risk of getting it.

LINDY KERIN: Melbourne resident Robert Holland cares for his wife Susan who suffers from
Alzheimer's. They were among the 1,100 participants in the research study.

ROBERT HOLLAND: Susan and I from day one have agreed that it's really important that we use what's
happening to not just our advantage but for the wider community and so any opportunity where we've
been able to be involved in a drug trial or any research we've just gone for it.

LINDY KERIN: And what was involved in this study?

ROBERT HOLLAND: Both of us had to undergo a series of scans because it was as important for them to
see what was happening to healthy volunteers as it was to people with Alzheimer's or any other form
of dementia for that matter.

LINDY KERIN: Robert Holland says his wife wasn't diagnosed until years after she started displaying
early signs of Alzheimer's. He says earlier detection would saved them a lot of heartache.

ROBERT HOLLAND: Even though she was working in a hospital environment with you know health
professionals, no-one thought to ask the fundamental question, is there something wrong here, you
know, is there a pathology, rather than skills lacking or whatever?

And so for us it was an answer that we'd been looking for a long time, but really just couldn't put
our finger on.

LINDY KERIN: Alzheimer's is estimated to cost the Australian economy between six and seven billion
dollars a year.

Professor Ames says the research conducted in collaboration with Access Economics could bring
significant savings to the nation's health bill.

DAVID AMES: We predict there will be 730,000 by the year 2050, by which time, there will be one
person with dementia for about every 20 or 30 working adults.

So in economic terms it's extraordinarily important. If we could push back the age at which people
got Alzheimer's Disease by five years, we'd save something like $60-billion by 2050.

LINDY KERIN: Alzheimer's Australia is the peak support group for Australians living with dementia.
It's releasing a report today that says dementia research in Australia is significantly underfunded
compared with other chronic diseases.

The National Executive Director is Glenn Rees:

GLENN REES: The current investment in dementia is about $13-million a year, or about 0.5 per cent
of the cost of dementia. We think that's totally inadequate.

LINDY KERIN: What do you think is needed?

GLENN REES: We think on the basis of the report that an investment of about $36-million a year or
1.5 per cent of the total cost of dementia to the health system would be about right.

ELEANOR HALL: Glenn Rees from Alzheimer's Australia speaking to Lindy Kerin.