Global Technology - December 2018

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Now, let’s examine the most important technological and scientific breakthroughs emerging from labs around the world.

Timely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is extremely important, as treatments and interventions are more effective early in the course of the disease.  However, early diagnosis has proven to be challenging.  Research has linked the disease process to changes in metabolism, as shown by glucose uptake in certain regions of the brain.  But these changes can be difficult to recognize.

Differences in the pattern of glucose uptake in the brain are very subtle and diffuse.  A new study published in the journal Radiology, involved applying deep learning, to identify changes in brain metabolism predictive of Alzheimer’s disease.  The study concluded that artificial intelligence technology) can dramatically improve the ability of brain imaging to predict Alzheimer’s disease at a very early stage.

The researchers trained the deep learning algorithm on a special imaging technology known as FDG-PET scan.  In an FDG-PET scan, FDG, a radioactive glucose compound, is injected into the blood.  The PET scanner can them can then measure the uptake of FDG in brain cells, which is an indicator of metabolic activity.

The researchers had access to data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (or ADNI), a major multi-site study.  The ADNI dataset included more than 2,100 FDG-PET brain images from 1,002 patients.  Researchers trained the deep learning algorithm on 90 percent of the dataset and then tested it on the remaining 10 percent of the dataset.  Through deep learning, the algorithm was able to teach itself metabolic patterns that corresponded to Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, the researchers tested the algorithm on an independent set of 40 imaging exams from forty patients that it had never studied.  The algorithm achieved 100 percent success at detecting the disease, an average of more than six years prior to the conventional diagnosis.  In short, it was able to predict every single case which later advanced to become Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the independent test set was small and needs further validation with a larger multi-institutional prospective study,...

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