Australian scientists have found a series of markers associated with Alzheimer's disease in blood, meaning that a blood test could soon help diagnose at-risk patients earlier than ever before.

Scientists at CSIRO, Australia's national government body for scientific research, found blood-based biological markers linked to the toxic protein, amyloid beta, which is mostly responsible for the disease. They believe that this discovery will lead to earlier indications of the disease's onset.

"Early detection is critical if we are to make any real difference in the battle against Alzheimer's, giving those at risk a much better chance of receiving treatment earlier, before it's too late to do much about it," Dr. Samantha Burnham, from CSIRO's Preventative Health Flagship, told Nature World News.

CSIRO analyzed data from 273 participants in the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers, and Lifestyle study of ageing (AIBL) and used mathematical models to identify nine markers that correlated to amyloid beta proteins, which clump together, building plaque in the brain that is believed to disrupt connections within the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory), causing loss of neuron functions.

"Amyloid beta levels become abnormal about 17 years before dementia symptoms appear. This gives us a much longer time to intervene to try to slow disease progression if we are able to detect cases early," Dr. Burnham said.

In 2011, there was a total of 5.4 million people with Alzheimer's disease in the United States with one out of every eight American's diagnosed.

In a media release from February, scientists from CSIRO described the process they used to effectively crystallize the part of amyloid beta that forms plaque by fusing it to a shark antibody.

"Until now this has proved to incredibly difficult because of the protein's propensity to self-assemble and clump together," Dr. Jose Varghese said. "This enabled a structure to be resolved to atomic resolution thus providing an insight into the early molecular processes that occur in Alzheimer's disease."