European research project to explore Alzheimer's diagnosis

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, GE Healthcare, a division of the General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) and a Consortium of leading research institutions across Europe announced the PredictAD project, a research collaboration aimed at developing new diagnostic procedures for patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Today there is no single test or biomarker that can predict whether a particular person will develop Alzheimer´s disease and a definitive diagnosis is only possible after death - with postmortem analysis.

PredictAD is an EU funded research project which will study imaging biomarkers (MRI, PET FDG and PET PIB), electrical brain activity measurement and blood based markers (proteomics and metabolomics) and develop methods for how to combine data from different biomarkers.. Combining this multisource information may enable earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, but may also provide crucial information used for differentiating between various forms of dementia and for assessing disease severity. It may also allow for improved detection of disease progression and treatment efficacy monitoring.

"The aim of PredictAD project is to develop an objective indicator to diagnose Alzheimer's disease at the earliest stage possible. This may be possible by combining data from various data sources of patient monitoring, such as neuropsychological tests, medical imaging, electrical brain activity measurements, and analyzing protein and metabolomics levels of blood samples. Early diagnostics may play an important role in effective medical treatment of Alzheimer's disease, especially in the future, as the next generation of more effective therapies become available for all patients," says the Scientific Coordinator of the project, Dr. Jyrki Lötjönen from VTT.

"According to the latest estimates, the global prevalence of Alzheimer's disease is predicted to quadruple to 106 million by 20501. Thus, there is a critical need for effective diagnostic tools to help in the early diagnosis of this debilitating disease," says Dr. Lennart Thurfjell, Head of Diagnostic Software, Medical Diagnostics at GE Healthcare.

At a later stage during this three-year project, a selected biomarker set will be used to develop an efficient and reliable software solution that can be used by a physician to assess the risk, to diagnose and to monitor the progress of Alzheimer's disease in real clinical conditions using various patient data. The accuracy, usability and cost-effectiveness of the models and software will be clinically evaluated.

Currently, there is no curative treatment for Alzheimer's disease. If new drugs or prevention strategies were proven to be effective, an early diagnosis may enable doctors to provide medical care at an earlier stage, at a time when clinical diagnosis using only signs and symptoms of disease is challenging.

"PredictAD fits perfectly with GE Healthcare's "Early Health" vision as it will help us gain important knowledge, not only about individual biomarkers, but also about how they may combine for early detection and therapy response monitoring. Improving our understanding of the role that different imaging and non-imaging biomarkers play during the disease process is the key as we strive to develop new diagnostic solutions for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Thurfjell sums up.

Dementia causes long and oppressive suffering to patients and their relatives, and imposes enormous costs on society. Affecting more than 5 million people in Europe2, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia; it covers 50-70 % of all dementia cases2. Estimated costs of Alzheimer's disease to European society are more than 55 billion € per annum3. As the proportion of elderly people of population is increasing these costs are becoming a real burden to the society. Therefore a major breakthrough in Alzheimer's disease prevention and treatment is vital also in the economical sense.

With a consortium of top-level European research and industrial partners, the PredictAD project takes an important step towards an early approach to Alzheimer's disease prediction and management. Public and private partners from 8 research,academic, industrial and medical organizations from four different European countries will form the research consortium. PredictAD consortium members are VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, GE Healthcare (UK), Nextim Ltd. (Finland), University of Kuopio (Finland), Imperial College London (UK), Uppsala University (Sweden), University of Milan (Italy) and Rigshospitalet (Denmark).

  1. Forecasting the global burden of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's and Dementia Vol. 3 pp. 186 - 191, July 2007.
  2. Alzheimer-Europe www.alzheimer-europe.org
  3. Costs of Disorders of the Brain in Europe. Jes Olesen et al. European Journal of Neurology 12 (Suppl. 1), iii-v

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