June 20, 2011

New Methods to Detect Alzheimer’s

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new European research project known as PredictAD, has been created to develop successful methods for enabling earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The diagnosis requires a holistic view of the patient combining information from several sources, such as clinical tests, imaging and blood samples.

"Current diagnostic guidelines emphasize the importance of various biomarkers in diagnostics. We have developed novel approaches to extract biomarkers from imaging data, electrophysiological data and blood samples, and a unique and clinically useful software tool for integrating all these heterogeneous measurements," Dr. Jyrki Lötjönen of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and scientific coordinator of the project, was quoted saying.

There are several methods for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's that the European scientists have created. Firstly however, atrophy, which means to have a tissue decrease or waste away, in the mediotemporal lobe is a well-known hallmark of Alzheimer's, and magnetic resonance imaging is an excellent tool for measuring this tissue loss.

 Currently, in clinical practices brain images are looked at mostly only by visual inspection and there is a great need for objective measurements.
That's PredictAD's first method, "We have managed to develop efficient tools for measuring the size of the hippocampus, the atrophy rate of the hippocampus, and two modern approaches based on comparing patient data with previously diagnosed cases available in large databases," Daniel Rueckert of Imperial College in London and leader of the imaging biomarkers work-package, was quoted saying.

 An innovative tracer developed recently especially for diagnostics of Alzheimer's disease provides promise for very early diagnosis of the disease. Alzheimer's disease is known to affect the electromagnetic activity of the brain. The scientists have studied the performance of another piece of technology; transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) combined with electroencephalographic (EEG) measures in detecting the disease. The strength of TMS/EEG is that it allows direct and non-invasive perturbation of the human cerebral cortex without requiring the subject's collaboration. The study has shown significant changes in Alzheimer's patients compared with healthy aging people.

Molecular level biomarkers are also currently under extensive studies in Alzheimer's research. Many biomarkers are measured from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the liquid surrounding the cerebral cortex, have been found to be strongly related with the disease. One major challenge of these biomarkers is that taking samples from CSF is an invasive measurement limiting their usability in early diagnostics. Blood samples would be an excellent source for detecting Alzheimer's disease. PredictAD has studied the role of metabolomic and protein compounds in Alzheimer's disease from blood samples. The preliminary results reveal several promising compounds.

The PredictAD project continues to take important steps towards an early approach to Alzheimer's disease prediction and management.

SOURCE: PredictAD's workshop in Kuopio, Finland, June 16, 2011.