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New brain scan technology can detect early-stage Alzheimer’s with near 100% accuracy

A new machine learning-powered brain scan can detect with near-perfect accuracy when a person has Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers hope it will become available for use in the coming years.

Researchers from Imperial College London, in the UK, used an algorithm that already existed to detect cancer tumors, and used it to detect early Alzheimer’s with 98 percent accuracy.

By detecting Alzheimer’s disease early, treatment can begin earlier, doctors have more time to plan how to approach treatment, and the patient can even make plans for the future on their own while still in a healthy mind.

While the machine learning system is still in its infancy, the researchers hope it will be available to consumers within a few years.

Scientists have developed an algorithm that can diagnose the condition with an accuracy of up to 98 percent.  It uses standard MRI technology found in most hospitals and produces a result in 12 hours (stock image)

Scientists have developed an algorithm that can diagnose the condition with an accuracy of up to 98 percent. It uses standard MRI technology found in most hospitals and produces a result in 12 hours (stock image)

“Currently, no other simple and widely available method can predict Alzheimer’s disease with this level of accuracy, so our research is an important step forward,” said Professor Eric Aboagye, who led the study, in a statement.

“Many patients who present with Alzheimer’s in memory clinics also have other neurological disorders, but even within this group, our system was able to distinguish those patients with Alzheimer’s from those who did not.”

POSSIBLE CURES AND TREATMENTS FOR ALZHEIMER’S

stem cells

Stem cells are “building block” cells that can develop into many different cell types, including brain or nerve cells.

They have the potential to repair brain damage caused by neurological disorders, such as dementia.

Vaccines and Antibodies

Immunotherapy involves strengthening the body’s own defenses to fight disease.

It is used to treat cancer and Covid.

Some research is looking at vaccines that block the buildup of proteins in the brains of dementia patients.

Other studies have used monoclonal antibodies — injecting molecules prepared in a lab and designed to target plaque in the brain.

The UK’s CLARITY study measures how effective the monoclonal antibody BAN2401 (lecanemab) is in preventing or delaying the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another therapy, called aducanumab, is currently under consideration by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Reuse medicines

Developing new drugs to treat dementia takes many years and millions of pounds.

Repurposing existing drugs used for other conditions is another, often faster, way to find drugs to treat dementia.

Current drugs under investigation as possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia include drugs used for:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high bloodpressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Researchers, who published their findings this week in Communications Medicine, collected data from 400 patients who had already been diagnosed with early- or late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

They used a machine learning system used to classify cancer tumors, and used it on the brain instead.

The brain was split into 115 regions and more than 600 features had to be scanned, such as the size, shape and texture of each section.

Using an MRI machine, which most hospitals in developed countries already have, doctors can get a scan of a person’s brain that the machine learning system can read.

The system correctly identified a case of Alzheimer’s in 98 percent of participants’ brain scans.

In nearly 80 percent of the scans, it was able to tell whether the person had late or early-stage Alzheimer’s.

“While neuroradiologists already interpret MRI scans to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, there are likely features of the scans that are not visible even to specialists,” said Dr. Paresh Malhotra, a neurologist at the university.

“Using an algorithm capable of selecting texture and subtle structural features in the brain that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease could really improve the information we can obtain from standard imaging techniques.”

There are currently no treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and treatments focus more on managing symptoms than stopping the progression of the disease.

Only one drug has ever been approved by regulators to halt cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease – Biogen’s Aduhelm. The use of the drug is extremely limited, as many experts doubt whether it works.

However, finding Alzheimer’s disease early is still valuable. A person who knows that he will soon lose his memory, better prepare for a life where he is not all there anymore.

This includes setting up a care situation – be it a family member or some sort of private nurse.

It also allows the person to put things in order post-life, while still not experiencing significant amnesia.

Researchers are also hopeful that their machine learning system can help future drug trials, as it can identify Alzheimer’s patients early before other methods can, and then use them as trial participants.

“Waiting for a diagnosis can be a terrible experience for patients and their families. If we can shorten the time they have to wait, make diagnosis easier and reduce some of the uncertainty, that would help tremendously,” Aboagye said.

“Our new approach could also identify patients at an early stage for clinical trials of new drug treatments or lifestyle changes, which is currently very difficult to do.”

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Associationand it’s one of the top killers of the over-65s.

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