Researchers explore varying imaging methods for Alzheimer's

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NIH's National Institute on Aging has launched a study aimed at finding a way to use imaging technology to reduce the time and cost of clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease (AD) medications.

The Alzheimer's disease (AD) Neuroimaging Initiative has five major goals:

  • To develop a standard imaging method for clinical trials.
  • To improve methods of imaging.
  • To determine the optimum methods for acquiring and processing images.
  • To validate imaging and biomarker data.
  • To provide a database that will be available to all qualified scientific investigators.

The study will enroll 800 people at 45 to 50 sites over five years -- 200 normal elderly people and 600 people with varying degrees of Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive disorder.

Everyone will undergo periodic brain imaging and provide regular blood and urine samples. Clinical evaluations also will be done to allow researchers to correlate biomarkers with neuropsychological and behavioral data.

"Those of us doing brain imaging believe we can recognize how the brain changes in normal aging and identify specific changes that are related to AD," said Michael Weiner, MD, principal investigator for the study and professor of medicine, Radiology, and Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, at the American Medical Association's 23rd Annual Science Reporters Conference. "But every lab is doing something a bit different."

"Some people are using PET and some varying types of MRI," he added. "What are the best methods? What would make the best standard?"

The initiative is planned as a partnership between the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the U.S. FDA academic investigators, and private partners.