sMRI – the most powerful Alzheimer’s disease biomarker?

Apart from the formation of neurofibrillary tangles and deposition of amyloid plaques, other hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) include the loss of both neurones and synapses in the human brain. There is evidence to suggest that this neurodegeneration is closely associated with cognitive decline, which is why structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI), which measures brain morphometry, is considered to be a powerful AD biomarker.

In an important review published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy earlier this week, Vemuri and Jack neatly summarise the role of sMRI in AD. They compare sMRI to the other major AD biomarkers typically studied, discuss the ways in which information can be extracted from sMRI images to condense atrophy information from patients’ scans and highlight the different roles of sMRI as an AD biomarker, including its use in predicting the progression of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, measuring the efficacy of therapeutics and screening in clinical trials.

sMRI is a stable biomarker of AD progression and is useful in measuring disease intensity, however the authors stress that we should not rest on our laurels, but continue to build on it, by looking to develop automated techniques of extracting disease-specific information from images and by integrating it with other existing biomarkers for clinical use.

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