Entries in innovation (1)


The state of medical neuroscience: how can PET fill the gaps?

A couple of months ago I had an opportunity to attend the World Medical Innovation Forum hosted by Partners Health Care. This year’s forum focusing on Neuroscience brought together expertise from both industry and academia to discuss the current state of research for psychiatric and neurologic disease. This conference was rather unique in that it gave the audience a full spectrum view of how these diseases impact the world. While thoroughly covering the latest medical information on new pathological targets and therapeutic advances, the presenters also included patients and patients’ families, which offered a unique perspective that helped to characterize the disease as more than just a molecular mishap. While the science can often be slow and wrought with frustration, reconnection with patients and advocates for disease research can quickly reset the stage to remind you of the end goal.

The forum did not include any detailed data presentations, but offered an informal, conversational approach to discussing the current interests of both industry and academic researchers. With respect to Alzheimer’s disease, the general consensus seemed to be that the current spectrum of therapies targets the removal of dysfunctional proteins (Aβ, Tau), but this might not be enough once the tissue is damaged. Industry called to academic researchers in basic research to identify targets for early diagnosis so that the disease can be caught before there is permanent damage. They also highlighted the need for regenerative methods to help repair the damaged tissue once the diseased tissue is removed. In this same vein, regenerative medicine methods were proposed where dopamine neurons will be implanted in Parkinson’s disease patients to replace those lost to the disease. In regards to MS research, the search for curative, neuroprotective, and restorative therapy continues to stop, prevent and repair the insult of neuronal damage brought on by this disease.

From a neuroimaging perspective, many stages in this research offer a potential for advancement with PET imaging. In vivo imaging provides an opportune view into the living brain whereby early AD biomarkers could be tracked non-invasively and evaluated with disease progression. In regenerative medicine, molecular imaging provides a chance to visualize whether newly implanted neurons are expressing proper receptors and neurotransmitters are interacting accordingly. Finally, when regenerative therapies are ready, PET imaging can not only provide structural proof, but hopefully also confirm that this new structure is molecularly sound.