Dementia, is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms that includes memory loss and difficulties with thinking, is caused when the brain cells degenerate and die more quickly than they would as part of the normal ageing process. Dementia is having a significant effect on global healthcare systems and its prevalence within our ageing population is becoming well documented. Due to the ageing population, it has risen up the national health agenda in recent years, with independent and governmental bodies weighing in on the subject.
With a growing percentage of the population developing the disease, the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), developed and led by the Medical Research Council (MRC), was founded to improve treatment, ensure early detection and ultimately prevent the onset of dementia. It’s the first time organisations from across the UK have come together to tackle dementia. The multi-million-pound public-private partnership is part of the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia, launched in March 2012. DPUK aims to drive research and develop knowledge leading to potential new treatments that could halt or slow the condition.
Research to shape the future of dementia
It is widely recognised that biomarkers (biological markers) and other early risk tools are key to future developments of dementia diagnosis and treatment. In order to delve deeper into dementia diagnosis, researching large samples of people before the onset of dementia is necessary. Dementia insight; using scanners in a co-ordinated way across different institutes will allow for large scale data gathering. In response, DPUK has put technology at the forefront of its plans, building an imaging network linking imaging for neurodegenerative disease across nine major UK research institutions.
Innovative technology to accelerate research
The imaging network includes five new PET-MRI scanners to be installed at Cambridge University, Edinburgh University, Imperial College London, Manchester University and Newcastle University. Two existing PET-MRI systems located at Kings College London and University College London will also be utilised as part of the network.
PET-MRI technology involves hybrid imaging that incorporates Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), two of the most powerful clinical imaging tools. Bringing MRI and PET together offers the potential for a more complete imaging picture and better understanding of neurological pathologies. The advanced scanners which will be provided by Siemens Healthineers, and other vendors will enable new insights into dementia. Researchers will be able to look in detail at what is going on inside patients' brains, and to monitor the effects of treatment.
A range of other existing and new systems will also make up part of the Imaging Network including 7T and 3T MRI scanners at Cardiff University and Oxford University. The ultra high (7) Tesla magnetic field strength means the brain structure, function and biochemistry can be viewed with great precision and resolution, uncovering anatomical and physiological details only seen with ultra-high field MR.
A partnership approach to achieve shared goals
Siemens Healthineers is dedicated to supporting researchers with established imaging solutions that can identify cognitive indications at a much earlier stage, contributing towards the early detection of dementia. We recognise that strong collaboration for a projects like this is vital for success. By Government bodies, hospitals, universities and private companies working together in partnership, the UK infrastructure for dementia research will be in a strong position. Together, in partnership, the best use can be made of equipment, data and resources to aid the research and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.