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GE Healthcare, CSIRO to Partner on Alzheimer’s Diagnostics

Patient enters a PET scanner (National Institute of Mental Health)

Patient enters a PET scanner (National Institute of Mental Health)

GE Healthcare, a division of General Electric Company, and CSIRO, Australia’s science agency, will collaborate on the development of imaging tools to better predict people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. CSIRO is the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is funding the Australian Imaging, Biomarker & Lifestyle Flagship Study of Ageing (AIBL).

AIBL aims to discover which biomarkers, cognitive characteristics, and health and lifestyle factors determine subsequent development of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. Begun in 2006, the study involves some 1,000 participants, age 60 and older. The multidisciplinary study follows four research tracks: cognitive, imaging, biomarkers, and lifestyle.

In the collaboration with CSIRO, GE Healthcare will provide its investigational Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging agent 18F flutemetamol. In this part of the project, the researchers plan to use the imaging agent to better understand the role of the protein fragment beta-amyloid, which has been found to build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

“It is critical that we are able to identify subjects with beta amyloid accumulation,” says Christopher Rowe, lead investigator for imaging in the AIBL study, “so that we are able to study its effects on the brain, but specifically its effects on subjects with no or very mild symptoms.”

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a test that uses a special type of camera and a radioactive chemical tracer to look at organs in the body. The tracer usually is a substance such as glucose that can be used by cells in the body. PET uses the movement of these tracers through the body to examine metabolic processes, such as heart and brain functions, in real time.

So far, says CSIRO, 287 AIBL study participants have been imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PET. The MRI scans will provide detailed images of different brain tissues.

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