No need to die for Alzheimer’s diagnosis?

A growing concern is the rise in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It affects about 500,000 individuals per year in the United States, and that number is rising—about half of all people who live into their mid-80s may become affected, 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 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, PET Amyloid Imaging can detect beta-amyloid neuritic plaques—a distinctive pathological feature of Alzheimer’s patients—in the living brain. PET is not a screening or diagnostic tool, but rather a powerful research tool at this time, she maintains.

Introduced this month 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 was 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.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia