A Medical Device Daily

A consortium of research institutions across Europe is involved with the PredictAD project, a new research collaboration aimed at developing new diagnostic procedures for those with Alzheimer's disease (AD).

There is no single test or biomarker available that can predict whether a particular person will develop AD, and a definitive diagnosis is only possible through postmortem analysis.

PredictAD is an EU-funded project that will study imaging biomarkers such as MRI and PET, electrical brain activity measurement and blood-based markers such as proteomics and metabolomics, then develop methods combining data from the different biomarkers.

The project participants said combining this multisource information "may enable earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, but may also provide crucial information used for differentiating between various forms of dementia and for assessing disease severity."

It may also allow for improved detection of disease progression and treatment efficacy monitoring.

"The aim of PredictAD project is to develop an objective indicator to diagnose Alzheimer's disease at the earliest stage possible," said Dr. Jyrki L tj nen of VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, the scientific coordinator of the project.

This may be possible, he said, "by combining data from various data sources of patient monitoring, such as neuropsychological tests, medical imaging, electrical brain activity measurements, and analyzing protein and metabolomics levels of blood samples."

"There is a critical need for effective diagnostic tools to help in the early diagnosis of this debilitating disease," said Dr. Lennart Thurfjell, head of diagnostic software, medical diagnostics, at GE Healthcare (Chalfont St. Giles, UK). "Improving our understanding of the role that different imaging and non-imaging biomarkers play during the disease process is key as we strive to develop new diagnostic solutions for Alzheimer's disease."

At a later stage during this three-year project, a selected biomarker set will be used to develop an efficient and reliable software solution that can be used by a physician to assess the risk, to diagnose and to monitor the progress of AD in real clinical conditions using various patient data. The accuracy, usability and cost-effectiveness of the models and software will be clinically evaluated.

Other PredictAD consortium members include Nextim and the University of Kuopio (both Finland), Imperial College London (UK), Uppsala University (Sweden), the University of Milan (Italy) and Rigshospitalet (Denmark).

New MR scanner combines diagnosis, treatment

A new, dedicated intra-operative magnetic resonance (MR) scanner enables physicians to carry out image-guided surgery as soon as problems are detected and diagnosed – possibly in a single outpatient session, according to participants in the collaboration involved in the scanner's development.

The device will allow breast cancer patients to receive faster treatment, they said.

The new technology is being developed by Specialty Magnetics (London), a wholly owned subsidiary of Specialty Scanners, in collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

This is the second MR scanner R&D project in which Specialty Magnetics is collaborating with the ICR and the STFC. The £3.2 million project, which began in April 2008, will receive an investment of £1.6 million from the UK government-sponsored Technology Strategy Board.

With conventional MRI systems, patients have to be removed from the scanner and the results analyzed before any surgical treatment can be conducted. The new MR scanner being developed will allow image-guided surgery to take place in "real time" at the moment the problem is detected and diagnosed.

The participants said the new scanner will provide "an excellent platform for treating tumors using non-invasive or minimally invasive ablation techniques such as focused-ultrasound or cryo-ablation, leading to less trauma, more breast tissue conservation, potentially no hospitalization, and less anxiety and stress to women."

They said the technology will enable the seamless integration of image-guided diagnostic and treatment procedures, potentially shortening the pathway to treatment from several weeks and even months to a single outpatient session.

Pair of spinal systems from joimax

joimax (Karlsruhe, Germany) said it has become the first company to develop a unique instrumentation for the treatment of spinal canal stenosis.

The company said the 360-degree TESSYS Spinal Stenosis System, which has been developed in cooperation with Rudolf Morgenstern, MD, of Centro Medico de Terapia de la Columna (Barcelona, Spain), enables surgeons to remove osseous/bony material from the spinal column under direct endoscopic view through the vertebral foramen.

Such bony excrescences, or osteophytes, narrow the spinal canal and "drastically limit" the affected person's motor and sensory functions.

Especially relating to the elderly in industrialized countries, spinal canal stenosis is a frequent disease of the spine, joimax said. Currently, patients are operated on, if possible, via an open microsurgical method under full anesthesia, which can cause more tissue damage and may result in instability of the spinal column, it said.

"With our new method, the patient is under local anesthetics and via a fingernail-like cut, the minimal access to the stenosis is enabled, said Morgenstern. "Surrounding tissue is hardly damaged, and thanks to new endoscopic reamers and chisels allowing removal of osteophytes, treated patients can leave the hospital only a few hours after the surgery."

Another product from the company for the spinal surgery market is iLESSYS, standing for interLaminar Endoscopic Surgical System. It enables fully dorsal endoscopic access to the lamina and to the spinal canal, which in a stenotic patient situation is heavily compressing all structures.

"With iLESSYS and together with the TESSYS Stenosis System, a full 360-degree spinal canal treatment is now available for tissue, but if indicated, also for bony decompression procedures," said Wolfgang Ries, founder/CEO of joimax.