Her name was Lois Bigham Deel. She lived most of her life in West Texas, where she died in 1984 of Alzheimer's disease. Her daughter Mamie Gene would die from Alzheimer's, too. So would another daughter, Ava Nell in Abilene in 2007. So what could the descendants of this family expect? What could they do?
"It's something that, it's very exciting to be making advances in the disease right now," said Dr. Paul Schulz, a neurologist.
Memorial Hermann's exciting advance is a recently approved FDA drug that highlights amyloid buildup in the brain. A good brain scan versus a bad scan filled with amyloid deposits-- believed to be one of the causes of Alzheimer's.
"Now, for the first time in human existence, we can actually see this abnormal protein being deposited in their brain," Schulz said.
But doctors agree this is not a diagnostic test for everyone; not to tell you if you will get Alzheimer's. This test is designed for something else. The four patients who have had this scan at Memorial Hermann already had symptoms. They were people doctors had trouble diagnosing. Was it Alzheimer's, depression, strokes? The scans proved Alzheimer's was their most likely affliction.
"We can now take people with the amyloid being deposited and enroll them in treatment trials to try to prevent the development of the disease," Schulz said.
A disease for which there is still no cure. But a brain scan could be one more step in that elusive search for five million families. Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Click here for more on Alzheimer's disease.
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