Advanced Imaging

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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Working Toward a Disease-Free World

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By Barry Hochfelder

While all aspects of our industry are interesting and important, I'm very much drawn to the medical. The mysteries and wonder of the human body and how it works—and doesn't—has long fascinated me. One of the most insidious, frightening diseases out there among the so many that plague society is Alzheimer's disease.

While we generally associate it with aging—it usually begins after age 60 and nearly half of those 85 and older may have the disease—that's not always the case. Last year I attended a memorial service for a former colleague, one of the sharpest minds and certainly the best editor I ever knew. He died of Alzheimer's disease at 53.

On November 25, 1901, Dr. Alois Alzheimer began seeing a new patient known as Auguste D. At a mere 51 years of age, his new patient was unable to remember her entire name, her husband's name or how long she had been in the hospital. After she died, Dr. Alzheimer discovered plaques and tangles covering her brain. But for the time being, both doctor and patient were confounded by her declining mental abilities. On her first day in the hospital, Dr. Alzheimer tried to have Auguste write her name. She failed several times before she looked up at him, exasperated, and announced, "I have lost myself."

I stand in awe of the dedication of the men and women who work in medical research. They're tireless and intelligent enough to take any clue, no matter how small, and pursue it until it pans out or proves false. Imaging technology, of course, is playing a role in this vital work.

In this issue of Advanced Imaging we examine two such cases. On page 16, we look at the research into Alzheimer's disease being done by Robert Bartha and his team at Robarts Research Institute in Ontario, Canada. He employs Cedara software to track the disease based on the expansion of brain ventricles. The scientists can measure anatomical changes in the brain over time. Where once the work was tedious and manual, with human error a great risk, software speeds up the process and limits the chances of a mistake.

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