This tool is able to identify neurodegeneration in a person before the symptom appears, which could mean more effective and customized medicine. Photo credit: Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL)
Magnetic resonance imaging is the most sensitive and reliable technique for diagnosing and monitoring neurodegenerative diseases. The images obtained allow doctors to perform a full anatomical analysis of the brain and detect atrophy in specific regions. However, the inspection of the images is usually done visually, which means that certain signs of neurodegeneration invisible to the human eye are not recognized until the damage has already progressed.
Dr. Estela Cámara from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Faculty of Psychology as well as from the Neuroscience Institute of the University of Barcelona (UBNeuro), together with Alicia Palomar, developed a computer program with which magnetic resonance images can be analyzed quantitatively quickly and easily and which can be adapted to any brain disease. This program, called SeSBAT (Single Subject Brain Analysis Toolbox), integrates image analysis protocols that can be used to measure the volume of specific regions of the brain or to perform a general exam, and detects small changes that are invisible to the eye and predicts their risk can develop a degenerative disease.
SeSBAT opens the door to the identification of new biomarkers to improve the early detection and monitoring of neurodegenerative diseases. Because it is a quantitative analysis, it can identify anatomical changes in the brain that occur before symptoms appear.
With this type of integrated analysis, data can be extracted from a single person, avoiding the inter-individual variability of working with groups. This enables individual monitoring of a patient over an extended period of time, which would be very useful to determine the effectiveness of certain drugs in clinical trials or to monitor people at risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.
The team of Dr. Cámara has tested the accuracy of this new tool in magnetic resonance imaging in patients with HD neurodegenerative disease. The results, published in the journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, show that the tool can identify those patients who are in the early stages of the disease and even those who have not yet experienced the first symptoms.
Dr. Cámara states that it is a very versatile program that can be adapted and personalized for any type of neurodegenerative disease or project. The Cámara group is looking for new collaborations with groups interested in applying this technology to their projects. Similarly, the tool could easily be applied to routine clinical practice, allowing for much deeper analysis of MRI images and more accurate treatment of patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
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Alicia Palomar-Garcia et al., SeSBAT: Toolbox for brain analysis of individual subjects. Application to Huntington’s Disease as a Preliminary Study, Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.3389 / fnsys.2020.488652 Provided by IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
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