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You are here: MEDICA Portal. Part II: Imaging. Prevention.

To Be in the Know with Every Detail (Part 1)

To Be in the Know with Every Detail (Part 1)

Medicine has a new objective: Physicians are to recognise diseases before they become noticeable through symptoms – with the help of molecular imaging. A tumour, atherosclerosis or dementia - illnesses that may break out some day have developed a lot earlier inside the smallest living units of men - the cells. Scientists are convinced that it is in principal possible to trace back diseases to molecular abnormalities - the goal now is to determine and visualise these faults.

The theory behind the concept: If the molecular deviations are known for, for example, cardiac insufficiency special markers with fluorescent molecules or radiation emitting isotopes could be developed that attach to faulty proteins, mutated genes or diseased tissue. According to the lock-and-key principle the signaling markers accumulate at the system's weak point and are detected by imaging devices from the outside. That way, physician would receive clues on whether a patient is prone to cardiac insufficiency or not.

Paradigm shift: Diseases shall not be given a chance to arise anymore

The German Federal Ministry for Research and medical industry businesses decided last year to invest 900 million Euros in molecular imaging. This marks a paradigm shift in the health care landscape: The human being shall not be repaired by doctors after falling ill anymore - instead of this, diseases shall not be given a chance to arise anymore in the first place. A disease is supposed to be diagnosed as early as possible so that it either does not break out or - if it does - only in an alleviated state.

Photo: Immunofluorescence indicates viral antigenes
Fluorescent marker: The signal constitutes of glowing
© NCI Visuals Online

An analysis introduced by the consultancy Frost & Sullivan in 2008 states that the sector of molecular imaging experiences growth: European molecular imaging markets earned revenues of USD 201.1 million in 2007 and may reach USD 287.5 million in 2014. Siemens, too, is part of opening these markets. „We observe a relatively strong growth of molecular imaging in Germany, especially we observe a backlog in terms of the combination PET/CT. There are also many growth markets in regions of emerging economies such as South East Asia, Russia and Latin America“, Markus Lusser, Vice President Global Sales and Marketing for Molecular Imaging of Siemens in Illinois, USA says.

Tracers for tumors, dementia and heart problems

Three areas are particularly important when it comes down to molecular imaging according to Lusser: Classic diagnostic systems such as positron emission tomography (PET) and spectroscopy to start with. „Also the preclinical phase in research is of importance in order to find more suitable biomarkers.“ The third pillar is concerned with the distribution and delivery of isotopes that have a very short half-life and therefore need to be produced locally. „A lack of suitable laboratories for these tasks exists in many countries.“

Siemens invests especially in tmuor diagnostics and therapy. „Molecular imaging based on PET is extremely heavy on oncology“, Lusser explains. „Therefore, we concentrate on developing new isotopes that may open up new possibilities such as, for example, identifying special tumors that are resistant to radiation therapy.“ Concurrently, Siemens tries to poduce tracers for dementia or a heart tracer that would enable a classification of the myocardal muscle. „This would help the physician to better decide on suitable therapies for the patient.“

- Part 1: To Be in the Know with Every Detail
- Part 2: Of Paying Attention to the Type of Radiation
- Part 3: A Glance Inside and At The Head - fMRT and Portrait Holography


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Overview - Future Trends in Medical Technology