TEDMED

The first patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease died in 1906, and after 113 years of trying, there’s still no cure for the disease. Drug development is very costly: it takes on average $6 Billion per drug candidate and over 10 years to develop and test before it fails. Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the US with 1 in every 5 Medicare dollars spent on it. At this rate, unless there is a revolution in the field, this is going to bankrupt the entire healthcare system.

But why is there no cure or disease modifying treatment? It’s because there is no early detection method. By the time people are clinically diagnosed it’s already too late to intervene. And clinical trials keep failing because the selected patients are too advanced in the disease process to show any treatment effect.

So, the key is early detection. But how early? By the time signs of memory loss appears the disease is already too advanced in its process. Damage to the brain starts at the microscopic scale, the scale that cells are arranged at and communicate with each other. But the only way to visualize that scale is to take out the tissue and put it under the microscope, or to magically create a virtual microscope that can do it non-invasively on a living human brain.

Luckily, this revolutionary idea of a virtual microscope isn’t far off from reality. Today, we’re working on a novel outside-the-box approach to make this virtual microscope using just routine clinical brain MRI. We are proposing a new standard for brain health screening and monitoring, paving the way for exciting new treatments, and finally one day – a cure.