Research into Alzheimer's and Parkinson's boosted by Harvard collaboration with GE Healthcare

12 August 2005

Cambridge MA and Piscataway, USA.

The Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration & Repair (HCNR) will collaborate with GE Healthcare to research the human central nervous system and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

HCNR will use GE Healthcare’s state-of-the-art cellular imaging system, the IN Cell Analyzer, in the research and will work with the company to develop new software tools that will help speed disease analysis in the lab.

The IN Cell Analyzer is an imaging system used by researchers in pharmaceutical and academic labs to analyze a variety of cellular processes in disease definition and drug development. It will help scientists decipher the molecular and pathological mechanisms of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease (HD), ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The HCNR was established to develop therapies for neurodegenerative diseases through collaborative translational research. “This collaboration could result in a better understanding of degenerative diseases that affect the brain, which is currently not well understood by the medical community,” said Stephen Wong, PhD, P.E., Director of the HCNR Center for Bioinformatics, and an associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. “We can see cells more clearly and how they react to specific drugs. This gives our researchers a better view of complex neurological processes that impact the progression of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“We believe GE’s innovative disease research technologies combined with the ground-breaking research being done at HCNR will, ultimately, enhance the efficiency of healthcare and the quality of patient care,” said Joel McComb, President of Discovery Systems at GE Healthcare.

Background: neurodegenerative diseases in the United States

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that there are approximately 18 million people worldwide suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, a figure projected to nearly double by 2025 to 34 million.

  • Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HD, ALS and MS are all examples of neurodegenerative disease.
  • In the United States, it is estimated that 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed each year, in addition to the 1.5 million Americans who currently have the disease.
  • An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and the number will continue to grow – by 2050 the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s could range from 11.3 million to 16 million.
  • Of the U.S. population living today, over 300,000 Americans will die from ALS. Based on U.S. population studies, a little over 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year (approximately 15 new cases a day.) It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.
  • One out of every 10,000 Americans has HD and 200,000 more are at risk of developing the fatal genetic disease.
  • Over 200,000 Americans currently suffer from MS and every week about 20 more are diagnosed. 


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