Optimising PET scanning to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease

Research project title: The Imperial Amyloid PET Imaging Cohort

Lead Investigator: Dr Paresh Malhotra 

  • Institution: Imperial College London
  • Grant type: Project grant 
  • Duration: 32 months 
  • Amount: £193,954

Why did we fund this research?

Comments from our Research Network volunteers:

‘I recognise the importance of this project with the objective of assisting not only earlier, pre symptom, diagnosis, but with increased accuracy.’

Project summary

Dr Malhotra aims to understand more about how PET scanning techniques can be used to accurately diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The background 

The most common cause of dementia in older and younger people is Alzheimer’s disease. Research has shown there is a build-up of the toxic forms of two proteins – tau and amyloid - in and around the brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Until recently a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was based on the individual’s symptoms. Often however a diagnosis may be incorrect. Researchers can now use brain scans known as PET scans to see the build-up of amyloid in the brain. 

Dr Malhotra and his team have already used this scanning technique to study 100 people. This small study led to a change  in the diagnosis of 30 people and a change in how a further 42 people were treated. 

What does this project involve?

The research team now want to evaluate the usefulness and effectiveness of amyloid PET scanning thoroughly and systematically. They will set up a database of everyone who has been scanned so they can evaluate if and how this technique should be used in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

They plan to approach people whose scans did not show a build-up of amyloid to find out if they had another type of dementia or whether their thinking and memory problems have since improved. Dr Malhotra will also investigate whether MRI scans show changes that might suggest a build-up of amyloid.

How will this project help people with dementia?

Currently there is no simple test that doctors can use to make an accurate and timely diagnosis of dementia. This can mean people affected by dementia spend years getting the correct diagnosis. It’s vital we explore different techniques to quickly and easy diagnosis dementia so people affected by the condition can access the support and treatments they need as soon as possible.

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