Feature | PET Imaging | June 20, 2016

SNMMI Image of the Year Assesses Tau Buildup in Alzheimer's Patients

German PET imaging study offers new insight into neurodegenerative characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease

SNMMI, Image of the Year 2016, PET, Alzheimer's disease, amyloid plaques

Topographical correspondence of tau- but not amyloid-pathology with neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease

Right lateral surface of projected z-score images, reflecting deviation from healthy controls

Yellow/red: higher uptake, blue: lower uptake as compared to controls

Image courtesy of G. Bischof, J. Hammes, T. van Eimeren, A. Drzezga, Multimodal Neuroimaging Group, Dept. of Nuclear Medicine, University of Cologne; B. Neumaier, Institute of Radiochemistry and Experimental Molecular Imaging University of Cologne; J. Dronse, O. Onur, J. Kukolja, G. Fink, F. Jessen, Center for Memory Disorders, Depts. of Neurology & Psychiatry, University of Cologne; and K. Fliessbach, Dept. of Neurology, University of Bonn.

June 20, 2016 — Positron emission tomography (PET) with three different radiotracers can now measure amyloid plaques, tau tangles and metabolic activity in the brains of living Alzheimer’s patients. This multimodal study shows significant correlation between increased tau and decreased metabolic activity in the brain — a clear sign of neurodegeneration — revealed researchers at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).

Each year, SNMMI chooses an image that exemplifies the most promising advances in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. The state-of-the-art technologies captured in these images demonstrate the capacity to improve patient care by detecting disease, aiding diagnosis, improving clinical confidence and providing a means of selecting appropriate treatments. This year, the SNMMI Image of the Year was chosen from more than 2,200 abstracts submitted to the meeting and voted on by reviewers and the society leadership.

The 2016 SNMMI Image of the Year goes to a German team of researchers from the University Hospital of Cologne; the Jülich Research Center; and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. For this study, 10 subjects with Alzheimer’s underwent PET following the injection of three radiotracers: fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (F-18 FDG), which images regional metabolic activity; carbon-11 Pittsburgh compound B (C-11 PiB), which has an affinity for amyloid plaques; and F-18 AV-1451, an emerging imaging agent that binds to tau in the brain. Results showed that increased tau was directly associated with hypometabolism (reflecting neuronal dysfunction) in the brain. For amyloid-deposition, no strong association with hypometabolism was found. However, an indirect interactivity between tau and amyloid was observed particularly in the parietal cortex, in that the negative impact of regional tau-deposition on metabolism was stronger in regions with higher amyloid-burden.

“It is a big honor for us to receive this prestigious award. It represents a great reward for the entire team and will strongly motivate our group,” said Alexander Drzezga, M.D., of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the University Hospital of Cologne in Cologne, Germany. “I am convinced that it will encourage particularly the young investigators involved in this project to continue with this type of research in the future. I would like to thank all the members of our team who contributed to this work. The study represents the result of an interdisciplinary effort, involving several clinical departments and scientists from different research centers. Also, I would like to thank all the subjects who participated in the study.”

“Integrating these molecular imaging tools offers the opportunity to investigate the possible independent and synergistic contribution of these protein pathologies in neurodegeneration in the living brain and, therefore, greatly advance our understanding of the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease,” Drzezga added.

“We still do not understand fully how these abnormal amyloid and tau protein depositions affect brain functions and cause dementia,” stated Satoshi Minoshima, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the SNMMI Scientific Program Committee. “This Image of the Year study begins to address that fundamental question and leads to the next investigational study to determine the relative contributions of tau and amyloid pathology to neuronal dysfunction. In the United States, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are funding amyloid PET studies to demonstrate PET’s potential clinical value. The Image of the Year study adds a new dimension to the role of PET in aiding the diagnosis and treatment of patients with dementia.  It is a very exciting time for the field of molecular imaging.”

Further investigation of these and other factors of neurodegeneration in living dementia patients could one day help clinicians improve diagnostic accuracy and lead to disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s, including new drugs that could potentially target tau in order to slow or stop degenerative effects in the brain. Multimodal imaging approaches like this one could allow more precise staging of neuropathology, even before the irrevocable onset of memory loss experienced by Alzheimer’s patients. Furthermore, improved prediction, prognosis and therapy control/follow up may become feasible.

More than 46 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s across the world, and that number is expected to rise steeply to 131.5 million by 2050. The global economic cost of the disease is expected to approach $1 trillion in the same period, according to the newest data from Alzheimer’s Disease International.

For more information: www.snmmi.org

Related Content

Transpara Deep Learning Software Matches Experienced Radiologists in Mammogram Reading
News | Computer-Aided Detection Software | January 12, 2018
Deep learning and artificial intelligence improves the efficiency and accuracy of reading mammograms, according to...
Smartphone Addiction Creates Imbalance in Brain
News | Mobile Devices | January 11, 2018
Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet,...
Fat Distribution in Women and Men Provides Clues to Heart Attack Risk
News | Women's Health | January 11, 2018
January 11, 2018 – It’s not the amount of fat in your body but where it is stored that may increase your risk for hea
Minimally Invasive Treatment Provides Relief from Back Pain

Lumbar spine MRI showing disc herniation and nerve root at baseline and one month after treatment

News | Interventional Radiology | January 11, 2018
The majority of patients were pain free after receiving a new image-guided pulsed radiofrequency treatment for low back...
Emergency Radiologists See Inner Toll of Opioid Use Disorders

Rates of Imaging Positivity for IV-SUDs Complications. Image courtesy of Efren J. Flores, M.D.

News | Clinical Study | January 11, 2018
January 11, 2018 – Emergency radiologists are seeing a high prevalence of patients with complications related to opio
CT Shows Enlarged Aortas in Former Pro Football Players

3-D rendering from a cardiac CT dataset demonstrating mild dilation of the ascending aorta.

News | Computed Tomography (CT) | January 11, 2018
Former National Football League (NFL) players are more likely to have enlarged aortas, a condition that may put them at...
Study Finds No Evidence that Gadolinium Causes Neurologic Harm

MR images through, A, C, E, basal ganglia and, B, D, F, posterior fossa at level of dentate nucleus. Images are shown for, A, B, control group patient 4, and the, C, D, first and, E, F, last examinations performed in contrast group patient 13. Regions of interest used in quantification of signal intensity are shown as dashed lines for globus pallidus (green), thalamus (blue), dentate nucleus (yellow), and pons (red).

News | Contrast Media | January 11, 2018
January 11, 2018 — There is no evidence that accumulation in the brain of the element gadolinium speeds cognitive dec

Size comparison between 3-D printed prosthesis implant and a penny.

News | 3-D Printing | January 11, 2018
January 11, 2018 — Researchers using...
RSNA 2017 technical exhibits, expo floor, showing new radiology technology advances.
Feature | RSNA 2017 | January 11, 2018
January 11, 2018 — Here is a list of some of the key clinical study presentations, articles on trends and videos from
Hip Steroid Injections Associated with Bone Changes

58-year-old woman with left hip pain. X-ray from one month prior to the steroid/anesthetic injection demonstrates moderate joint space narrowing (arrows) and bony proliferation (arrowheads).

News | Orthopedic Imaging | January 11, 2018
January 11, 2018 – Osteoarthritis patients who received a steroid injection in the hip had a significantly greater in
Overlay Init