An imaging technique called positron emission tomography or PET can detect the risks of Alzheimer’s disease at early stages, US researchers have said.

PET with a fluorescent dye called Pittsburgh Compound B lights up clumps of beta amyloid, a protein that shows signs of Alzheimer’s disease, according to NYU Langone Medical Center researchers.

The average increase in these clumps, called amyloid-beta plaques, was particularly striking among study volunteers whose mothers had been diagnosed with the disease.

The study was conducted on 42 healthy individuals, including 14 whose mothers had Alzheimer’s disease, 14 whose fathers had Alzheimer’s disease, and 14 with no family history of the disease.

On average, the first group of volunteers showed a 15% higher burden of amyloid-beta deposits than those with a paternal family history, and a 20% higher burden of the protein clumps than those with no familial risk factors, the study said.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging and National Center for Research Resources, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Academy of Finland, the Sigrid Juselius Foundation and Turku University Hospital.