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"Automated MRI" software offers hope for Alzheimer's

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | March 08, 2011
British scientists are "field testing" a software package that compares a patient's MRI brain scan against hundreds of others to help diagnose Alzheimer's disease.

Scientists said Monday they were launching trials of the "Automated MRI" software at National Health Service-run memory clinics in Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark in the United Kingdom.

The software automatically benchmarks an MRI brain scan against 1200 archived images showing various stages of the disease. The scientists claim it can return "85 per cent accurate diagnostic results in under 24 hours."
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For Alzheimer's disease, a definitive diagnosis is made on patients with progressive dementia who during autopsies are found to have beta-amyloid deposits and neurofibrillary tangles in their brain.

But as the "true" diagnosis can only be delivered postmortem, it means with the living, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's isn't always accurate.

Scientists have been racing to validate imaging studies that can help bring about earlier diagnoses. Some of the more promising techniques involve PET scans and novel imaging agents that
bind to plaque deposits.

The MRI software will be tested over the next year. Researchers also hope to collect more research-grade images through the study.

"Seven hundred fifty thousand people in the UK have dementia yet only 40 per cent receive a formal diagnosis," the Alzheimer's Society, a UK charity, said. "Getting an early diagnosis enables people with dementia to understand their condition, access treatments that could help relieve their symptoms and give them time to plan for the future."

The software was developed by researchers with the National Institute for Health Research's Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry at Maudsley Hospital, King's College London and at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Around 5.3 million Americans are estimated to have Alzheimer's, with total health care costs around $172 billion for 2010, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

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