New imaging tool diagnoses Alzheimer’s with unprecedented accuracy
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have discovered a more accurate imaging method to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. This new sophisticated tool , called SNIPE, involves magnetic resonance imaging and is useful not only for diagnosis but also for prognosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in patients usually over 65 years, and is characterized by progressive cognitive impairment, that is memory loss. It is a neurodegenerative disease that once appeared, it cannot be stopped although there are several medical treatments or recreational activities to delay its progression. Medical treatment varies depending on the stage of the disease. In mild Alzheimer’s disease, drugs of choice are cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine. Patients with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s may use, in addition to cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine, which is an antagonist of NMDA receptors.
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is supported by tests of memory, family history of dementia, normal laboratory tests (normal cerebrospinal fluid, normal EEG) and imaging investigations (cerebral atrophy). Unfortunately, there has not been yet established a clear test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, although it is assumed that in the future this disease will be identified using specific biomarkers. A specific and sensitive test to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage would be very useful because actual cases of dementia are identified in a relatively advanced stage, when treatment cannot help very much the patient.
But now Drs. Louis Collins and Pierrick CoupÃ© and Their colleagues at The Neuro, McGill University and the MUHC at, have created a tool to predict which of the patients with mild cognitive impairment will develop or not Alzheimer’s disease. They created a computerized analytics program that shows cerebral atrophy ( which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease) using magnetic resonance imaging. With SNIPE, there are compared areas of the hippocampus of cognitively normal brains with similar portions of the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s. Besides this, it is estimated the percentage of brain atrophy correlated with clinical status and patient age. Accuracy of this method is 75%, and researchers hope that in the future to discover new ways to treat the disease.
SNIPE has several advantages, such as that it is rapid, non-invasive and more accurate. In addition, it is low-cost compared to the anterior diagnostic imaging tools ( SPECT, single photon emission computed tomography, PiB PET, positron emission tomography) and is highly practical because it uses MRI scans.