Better Diagnostic Opportunities
With even more precise measurements, Jülich scientists aim to improve, among others, the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), changes in the brain caused by liver diseases and tumours at an early stage.
Using simultaneous MRT and PET measurements, they are able for the first time to compare changes in the biochemistry of the brain with changes in the water content: water accumulates around the diseased brain tissue in diseases such as MS, tumours and also after strokes. With a technique developed at Jülich, medical scientists can determine the water content in the different areas of the brain precisely down to one percent using 3-T MRT devices – and already today they are able to monitor treatments.
Moreover, Jülich researchers are further developing cancer diagnosis by exploring special radionuclides for labelling tumours. The combination of PET and MRT in one measurement will provide additional information to characterise tissue before an operation.
New Diagnostic Opportunities: Alzheimer's
Researchers also hope to make progress in the early diagnosis of dementia using the combined tomograph.
In Germany, well over a million people suffer from dementia, in most cases from Alzheimer's. Experts estimate that this number will double in the next three decades. This is not only a stroke of fate for the persons affected and their relatives, but also a burden for the health system.
Alzheimer's causes nerve cells to die off in the brain and more and more areas are damaged. As a result, the brain may shrink by as much as one fifth. The people affected are less frequently able to cope with tasks of their daily life on their own. Sooner or later they need constant nursing care.
Treatment in good time can delay severe symptom
To date, the disease is not curable and a definite diagnosis is only possible after death. The early stages of Alzheimer's are particularly difficult to differentiate from other diseases. In the advanced stages, MRT investigations clearly show the shrinking of the brain areas. Here, in particular, an early diagnosis is important: if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage, the occurrence of severe symptoms can be delayed. To this end, patients can, for example, start with brain training.
How does the brain respond to drugs and memory training
The simultaneous measurements with "9komma4" open up new diagnostic opportunities. Researchers aim to investigate how the administering of drugs influences the brain and the course of a disease, whether oxygen consumption in certain brain regions is different in healthy and sick people when solving a problem and how fast cells react.
Jülich researchers hope that they will eventually be able to identify markers that clearly characterise the early stages of Alzheimer's. Once the markers are defined using "9komma4", a diagnosis should also be possible with simpler devices.