A new artificial intelligence system can predict the development of Alzheimer's with 100 per cent accuracy and six years before the hallmarks doctors use to diagnose the disease appear.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's and the effectiveness of the best treatments for the disease diminishes as it progresses, meaning early detection is the best hope for the futures of the 44 million sufferers around the world.
Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, taught their AI how to detect subtle changes in the brain that would be imperceptible to the human eye.
At present doctors simply use a process of elimination to rule out as many other causes of memory loss as possible, based on brain scans.
While a doctor might see the signs of change in disparate images, it would take an impossibly long time for humans to map out these changes and their subtle patterns in enough patients over a long-enough span of time, to say with certainty which changes
AI may be the key to detecting Alzheimer's early enough to preserve some memory function — for six years longer, the new study, published in Radiology, suggests.
Specifically, the new system's machine learning system was able to learn patterns in nearly 2000 brain scans taken of 1000 patients.
"If we diagnose Alzheimer's disease when all the symptoms have manifested, the brain volume loss is so significant that it's too late to intervene," the study's authors said.
"If we can detect it earlier, that's an opportunity for investigators to potentially find better ways to slow down or even halt the disease process."
Most people have only four to eight years left to live by the time they are diagnosed.
There are medications available but they are not a fix and simply slightly slow its progression and help make day-to-day living a little more manageable.