Up Close and Very Personal with Your Brain

June 18, 2012
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Dementia is a growing problem and a huge burden on the health care system. Approximately 14 percent suffer worldwide and the prevalence among those 80 years of age and older is 24 percent. Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with some estimates suggesting one person develops Alzheimer’s every 68 seconds. Deaths from this disease have increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008 and there are now an estimated 5.4 million cases of Alzheimer’s domestically and 35 million worldwide.

Dementia is a growing problem and a huge burden on the health care system. Approximately 14 percent suffer worldwide and the prevalence among those 80 years of age and older is 24 percent. Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with some estimates suggesting one person develops Alzheimer’s every 68 seconds. Deaths from this disease have increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008 and there are now an estimated 5.4 million cases of Alzheimer’s domestically and 35 million worldwide.

Typically, Alzheimer’s has been difficult to diagnose, with certainty often not available until autopsy. So when new imaging technologies appear that may help detect Alzheimer’s, notice is taken. At the SNM annual meeting in Miami, Siemens Healthcare is demonstrating and extolling its integrated amyloid imaging solution, a combination of hardware and software as well as a reliable imaging biomarker. Amyloids are proteins that create plaque in the brain, inhibiting neurons, in much the same way that arterial plaque causes heart disease.

The first element of the solution is the Biograph mCT positron emission tomography/computer tomography (PET-CT) system. What’s interesting about this machine is that it can reportedly differentiate between gray and white brain matter with higher resolution that can not only visualize the uptake of amyloids but quantify the uptake.

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Alexander R. Zimmermann, Siemen’s vice president of marketing and sales for molecular imaging, said that the Biograph is a key part of a puzzle they’ve been working on for nearly six years.

“We’re very happy to introduce the world’s first integrated solution for amyloid imaging, which consists of the availability, manufacturing and distribution of a new imaging biomarker for amyloid uptake in the brain, a scanner that is made to visualize this marker with a higher volumetric resolution and a probability of quantification, and an FDA-pending software that will offer a ratio analysis,” he said in an interview. “We believe this is revolutionary because it’s offering for the first time a PET visualization of amyloids and therefore supports early insights into the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.”

Nine U.S. medical facilities already have the Biograph, with another 16 slated to have installations by year’s end.

Siemen’s was mum about the biomarker component of the integrated solution because it is being developed and shepherded by Eli Lilly and Company under the trade name Amyvid. Lilly is close-holding the information, but we’ve asked for comment.