Detecting Alzheimer's Disease Earlier

One of the most difficult challenges in treating Alzheimer's Disease is early detection.

Researchers say they have found a way to do just that and it could help millions of people start early treatment.

Families that have loved ones with Alzheimer's are often caught off guard when it strikes.

That's because there is little warning and its onset can leave families reeling.

Nurse Barbara Masterson says, "You go through all the signs of grief, the anger, and the disappointment and the hostility...all those things all at one time."

Researchers at Stanford University and the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California say they tried a different method of tracing Alzheimer's by looking at the blood.

"It's so obvious to look at the blood," says researcher Markus Britschgi.

They studied 120 proteins from blood samples of 87 patients.

Researchers narrowed down the field of 18 signaling proteins in patients with early and advanced stages of Alzheimer's.

Britschgi says the simple blood test gives an accurate picture of what's going on in a patient's body, "the blood might open a window to look into your brain very early on."

It can be two to six years earlier, which could mean starting treatment earlier to slow down the progress of the disease.

The research could also lead to more effective drugs -- raising hope for a cure one day.

"These signaling proteins which we found carry information about what it going wrong in our body. We can now track back hopefully which cells are involved in producing these signaling proteins," Britschgi says.