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Alzheimers Res Ther. 2011 Dec 2;3(6):34. doi: 10.1186/alzrt96.

Molecular imaging in Alzheimer's disease: new perspectives on biomarkers for early diagnosis and drug development.

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  • 1Karolinska Institutet, Alzheimer Neurobiology Center, Karolinska University, Hospital Huddinge, Novum 5th floor, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden.


Recent progress in molecular imaging has provided new important knowledge for further understanding the time course of early pathological disease processes in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Positron emission tomography (PET) amyloid beta (Aβ) tracers such as Pittsburgh Compound B detect increasing deposition of fibrillar Aβ in the brain at the prodromal stages of AD, while the levels of fibrillar Aβ appear more stable at high levels in clinical AD. There is a need for PET ligands to visualize smaller forms of Aβ, oligomeric forms, in the brain and to understand how they interact with synaptic activity and neurodegeneration. The inflammatory markers presently under development might provide further insight into the disease mechanism as well as imaging tracers for tau. Biomarkers measuring functional changes in the brain such as regional cerebral glucose metabolism and neurotransmitter activity seem to strongly correlate with clinical symptoms of cognitive decline. Molecular imaging biomarkers will have a clinical implication in AD not only for early detection of AD but for selecting patients for certain drug therapies and to test disease-modifying drugs. PET fibrillar Aβ imaging together with cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers are promising as biomarkers for early recognition of subjects at risk for AD, for identifying patients for certain therapy and for quantifying anti-amyloid effects. Functional biomarkers such as regional cerebral glucose metabolism together with measurement of the brain volumes provide valuable information about disease progression and outcome of drug treatment.

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