Toshiba announces partnership with VUmc for dementia research

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Toshiba announced on 8 March 2013 a scientific co-operation with VU medisch centrum (VUmc) for research into dementia and neuro-degenerative conditions.

The partnership with the Department of Radiology and the Department of Neurology at the VUmc in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, will see Toshiba provide its latest MR system, the Titan 3T with pianissimo technology, for the next five years to support research into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The equipment, according to the company, allows the visualisation of the cerebral microvasculature at a clinical MR field-strength. These techniques are contrast-free and can be added to the protocol of longitudinal dementia studies where patients are scanned repeatedly over many years to study the onset and progression of the disease.

According to a company release, the scientific co-operation with VUmc comes at a time that healthcare and financial systems are braced for a dramatic rise in the number of patients with dementia. Data showed there are 36 million people worldwide living with dementia, with that figure expected to rise by 16.15 million a year between now and 2050, underlining the significance of the research and the importance of the Toshiba MR technology within that.

The Toshiba equipment will be installed at VUmc at the beginning of May 2013 with the research overseen by Philip Scheltens, head of Neurology, and Frederik Barkhof, head of Neuroradiology, both of the VUmc. The Toshiba technology is intended to be tested and refined to improve the care and diagnosis of patients with neurovascular and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Scheltens, who is also head of the VUmc Alzheimer Center, said: “MR imaging is the cornerstone of dementia diagnosis and working with Toshiba will enable us to dig deeper into the brains of demented people at the earliest stage and discover important clues that ultimately will improve management of these patients.”

VUmc research will focus on better understanding of the role of perfusion and vascular changes in dementia and help gain new knowledge in structural aspects of dementia, notably Alzheimer’s disease. Scheltens said the Titan 3T will be a significant tool in helping them achieve that.

Barkhof , who also a senior consultant of the Alzheimer Center and the director of the Image Analysis Center, explained that MRI is a critical tool in helping show loss of brain volume in relevant structures, such as the hippocampus, in Alzheimer’s disease and their research in this area will help in obtaining more sensitive markers to diagnose Alzheimer’s and the role of vascular co-morbidity in dementia.

In the investigation of the development of dementia the high contrast between different soft tissue compartments achieved with MRI, especially at 3T field strength, precise anatomical information on brain structures are to be derived. According to the company it also helps detect patterns of differences between healthy subjects and patients affected with different forms of dementia.

A key advantage of the new Toshiba system is that it is wide bore and has been designed to offer the maximum comfort to the most fragile and elderly patients. “The very low noise level will enhance acceptance of MRI in this very old and fragile population and the new Toshiba sequences will allow us to study the vascular pathology in dementia in more detail,” said Barkhof.

Throughout the study, the VUmc researchers expect to scan hundreds of patients with suspected dementia from its memory clinic, which is the largest in The Netherlands and screens 15 to 20 new patients a week. Barkhof said the scientific co-operation with Toshiba will allow his team to focus on dementia using “patient-friendly equipment” in a “technically-advanced manner.”

He added: “As an academic centre we continuously strive to improve the care for our delicate patients. Toshiba’s Titan 3T Pianissimo scanner will allow us to better address the needs of vulnerable patient groups, including those less-oriented ones with cognitive decline and dementia, but also children with neurological diseases such as leukodystrophies.”

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