Scientists at Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have used a PET scanner to track the course of Alzheimer’s disease in an individual patient from early development to death.
The scientists conducted regular PET scans and memory tests on a 56-year old Alzheimer’s patient, and after the patient died, pathological and neurochemical analyses of the brain tissue were conducted.
The combined analyses provided a detailed picture of how Alzheimer’s disease develops.
Study researcher Professor Nordberg said the study shows that new, modern imaging technology, known as molecular imaging, makes it possible to discover the disease at an early stage.
“This opens up new opportunities for early diagnosis and for understanding the causes of the disease and identifying patients who can be expected to respond well to future Alzheimer’s therapy,” Nordberg added.
The results revealed that high concentrations of amyloid plaques were identified at an early stage of the disease when the patient experienced slight memory loss.
The levels remained unchanged as the disease progressed, while there was an increasing decline in energy metabolism in the brain.
In addition, a greater accumulation of plaque was accompanied by a reduction in the number of neuronal nicotinic receptors in the brain, which are central to memory function.