Vivienne Hill and her sisters lost their mother, Mary, to Alzheimer's disease.
"It is horrible knowing that once you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it is a slow, horrible journey," Hill said.
Now, researchers at King's College London say they are developing a blood test that could help families coping with the disease. They've found 10 proteins in the blood that could reveal early changes in the brain related to Alzheimer's before a patient has symptoms.
Scientists hope their findings will eventually lead to patients being put on drugs early to delay or even stop the disease.
"You take a drug, and in effect you would have the clinical symptoms prevented, even if the disease has already started in your brain," said Simon Lovestone, the senior author of the study.
Researchers analyzed blood samples from more than 1,000 people. They were able to predict with 87 percent accuracy whether people with mild memory and thinking problems would develop Alzheimer's within a year.
Many patients with dementia are diagnosed too late; researchers hope their test will identify the disease sooner.
"If we had that blood test, it would have reassured us something is wrong. Knowledge is strength and we can start planning for the future," Hill said.
Mary suffered with Alzheimer's for eight years before she died. Her daughter hopes the new findings will save others from the despair her family faced.
Over the past 15 years, more than 100 experimental Alzheimer's drugs have failed in trial.
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