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Forschungszentrum Jülich - Annual Report 2011

UsingKnowledge Annual Report 2011 | Forschungszentrum Jülich 6969 € 26 million will be available until 2015 for the Helmholtz Association’s new funding instrument, the Helmholtz Vali- dation Fund. This fund aims to bridge the gap between scientific findings and their commercial applications, as well as between public research and private in- vestment. The first selected validation projects include one that involves re- searchers from Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and Forschungszentrum Jülich, who are working together on improving the diag- nosis of Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage by means of positron emission to- mography (PET). The University of Leip- zig’s Clinic and Polyclinic for Nuclear Medicine and ABX GmbH Radeberg are also involved in the project. The cooper- ation has already proved fruitful in a ba- sic research project funded by the Fed- eral Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Alzheimer’s researchers assume that the number of nicotine receptors in the brain dwindles from the very onset of the disease. A clinical trial conducted by the nuclear medicine specialists at Leip- zig headed by Prof. Osama Sabri shows that this can be visualized using PET and a substance referred to as [18F] flu- batine within a measuring time that is acceptable for clinical practice and with a very good image quality. The new [18F] flubatine biomarker developed by a group of scientists headed by Prof. Peter Brust at HZDR could be used to help diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage or to monitor the success of treatment. While the Leipzig scientists continue to study [18F] flubatine, a team head- ed by Dr. Gudrun Wagenknecht at Jülich’s Central Institute Imaging for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for Electronics (ZEL) is developing imag- ing software that will be used to objec- tively validate the new substance – in other words, it will test whether the bio- marker can be used in real-life applica- tions. The scientists are combining the imaging data from PET examinations with MRI data on the structure of the brain from a magnetic resonance imag- ing scanner. In the MRI data, they can then semi-automatically delimit a large number of areas of the brain in which the biomarker will be examined. “Using our imaging software, we can carry out a genuine three-dimensional analysis of the biomarker, taking into ac- count the individual brain structure and its changes during the course of Alzhei- mer’s,” says Wagenknecht, describing special features of the software. In addi- tion to the validation project, the soft- ware is also interesting for the clinical application of other PET biomarkers and will therefore be further developed as a platform technology. This technology could be marketed later by companies specializing in the analysis of medical image data, as well as by pharmaceuti- cal companies or manufacturers of to- mographs. In this way, research results would be implemented in concrete ap- plications – which is the whole idea be- hind the Helmholtz Validation Fund. The Jülich imaging software is able to distinguish different regions of the brain. The top image shows the regions in the cerebral cortex; the image on the right also displays the inner structure of the brain. Virtual brain JuBrain Cytoarchitectonic Atlas Viewer