VTT introduces new solutions for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive memory disease currently suffered by more than 27 million people. By 2050, the number is forecast to rise to 114 million. In Finland, more than 70,000 people suffer from Alzheimer's and it will be one of the major health challenges of the next few decades.
Combined with the new drugs under development and other forms of treatment, a
successful early diagnosis can delay a patient's need for hospital care,
reduce suffering and lower the costs incurred by society.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a range of solutions for the diagnosis of the disease:
Tools for handling MRI images;
Metabolism-related markers determined from blood, and;
A software tool to link different measurement results and to assist in the
forming of a diagnosi
The solutions have been developed in a research project, PredictAD, funded by the EU, www.predictad.eu. Also taking part in the project from Finland are the University of Eastern Finland and Nexstim Ltd.
Currently, brain atrophy is assessed from MRI images mainly on the basis of visual inspection. Thus, there is a clear need for automatic, objective measures. Now several solutions have been developed specifically to meet this need, including tools for the measurement of the size and tissue mass in different parts of the brain. In another approach, the images of the patient being diagnosed are compared with extensive image databases and assessed for similarities with other, previously diagnosed cases.
Alzheimer's disease can be identified with the use of biomarkers obtained from the cerebrospinal fluid, for example. To reduce the need for special skills in obtaining the sample and to reduce discomfort for the patient, biomarkers determined from blood are of particular interest. Based on preliminary results from PredictAD, several promising disease-revealing molecules can be found in a blood sample.
Software tool to assist in diagnosis
In cooperation with physicians, PredictAD has developed a new, reliable and objective way of defining the patient's status. The software tool compares the patient's extremely versatile measurement data with the measurement data of other patients stored in large databases. As a result, the tool provides a measure and graphic display of the patient's status. In this way, several different kinds of results can be combined and a comprehensive picture of the patient's status produced to ease the formation of a diagnosis.
If the onset of the disease could be delayed by five years, the costs of Alzheimer's disease would be halved. Even a delay of just one year in the onset and progress of the disease would decrease the number of patients suffering from this disease by ten per cent.