Breakthroughs in Biomarker Imaging event highlights advances in understanding Alzheimer’s disease

At the Wisconsin Medicine Livestream: Breakthroughs in Biomarker Imaging on May 5, 2021, WRAP Principal Investigator Sterling Johnson, PhD, described how imaging techniques are transforming the way researchers at UW–Madison diagnose and understand Alzheimer’s disease.

Watch a recording of the presentation here

Prior to these imaging techniques, Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed after a person’s death. Using tau and amyloid Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans, researchers are now able to diagnose the disease and also identify the rate of cognitive decline, an important step for understanding when the disease starts, when symptoms occur, and how to possibly prevent it.

Dr. Johnson shared an example of a research participant recently diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment at age 74. With the help of brain imaging and scans the participant had completed 10 years earlier, they were able to estimate the participant began developing amyloid proteins in the brain at age 51.

“This highlights an incredible window of time where we might be able to intervene and prevent it,” Dr. Johnson said.

Robert Golden, MD, dean of UW School of Medicine and Public Health, hosted the program. “Whenever I catch a glimpse of the ongoing progress of this research, it gives me so much optimism, because – as you explained here tonight – the foundation for ultimately having an effective treatment is going to rely on the early quantification of how far the disease has progressed,” he said.

ICYMI: UW–Madison Alzheimer’s disease researchers presented “Ending Alzheimer’s” at a Wisconsin Medicine Livestream in September 2020. Watch a recording of that event here.