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No Need to Die for a Diagnosis

April 12, 2012
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A growing concern is the rise in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It affects about 500,000 per year in the U.S. and the number is rising. Half of all people who live into their mid-80s, says Gregory Petsko, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Mass.

Reisa Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Harvard Aging Brain Study at Massachusetts General Hospital, and is associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, has been working on a way to diagnose the disease before individuals become impaired. “By the time Alzheimer’s is recognized, it has been progressing for 10-20 years with irreversible brain damage,” she says.

Until now, the only absolute diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was by autopsy. As Sperling describes, neural markers can identify the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s and PET Amyloid Imaging can detect beta-amyloid neuritic plaques, a distinctive pathological feature of Alzheimer’s patients, in the living brain. The imaging tool is not a screening or diagnostic tool, she maintains. Right now, it is a powerful research tool.

Introduced this week by Malvern, Pa.-based Siemens Healthcare, is an integrated amyloid imaging solution comprised of a PET-CT scanner, quantification software, and the manufacturing and distribution of the imaging drug. 

Siemens is a TEDMED 2012 sponsor because innovation is critical. Tom Miller, CEO, Customer Solutions, Siemens Healthcare, says, “The time has passed when refining an existing product is not enough.” Innovative approaches to product development will be critical to Siemens’ continued growth.

“Personal health is coming slowly, but it is inevitable,” Miller adds. But “it’s not enough to have a diagnostic test that identifies a single aspect of a condition associated with a disease state.” What is important is increased specificity.