New tool to help with memory loss

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More than five million Americans are being robbed. Their memories and function are stolen by a thief that affects their brains.

Now, a new tool is helping doctors catch it in the act.

ABC 7 has more on the diagnostic breakthrough that could slow the devastating disease.

Liebe Ostrow Miller doesn't want us to show you her husband's face or mention his name. A stranger to us, he's becoming more of a stranger to her. "Sometimes I feel like a widow, but with a live husband. His short term memory is totally gone."

He was Neurologist Paul Schulz's first patient to have the Amyvid Test. "It's chilling. It puts a chill through you the first time you see this."

It's the first test to diagnose Alzheimer's that doesn't require a brain biopsy or an autopsy. A liquid agent is injected into a patient and binds to amyloid protein in the brain. Then…"We bring them in, they lay in a scanner for ten minutes and you're done."

The bright yellow near the edge of the brain in this scan shows a large amyloid build up. "If you have a significant amount of it, that's pretty specific for Alzheimer's disease."

This patient does have Alzheimer's. This one does not. Doctor Schulz says Amyvid can help catch the disease earlier and get patients on the right drug therapies to help delay symptoms longer. "Breakthrough is, is not a big enough term for it."

He hoped Liebe's husband's scan would be negative. But..."I have to tell you my heart sunk."

It showed he did have Alzheimer's. "It's hard. It's sad and it's lonely."

Doctor Schulz believes Amyvid is by far the most accurate test for screening for Alzheimer's in the living, but brain biopsies are still the gold standard because they don't have the potential for a false positive.