A compelling need in the field of neurodegenerative diseases is the development and validation of biomarkers for early identification and differential diagnosis. The availability of positron emission tomography (PET) neuroimaging tools for the assessment of molecular biology and neuropathology has opened new venues in the diagnostic design and the conduction of new clinical trials. PET techniques, allowing the in vivo assessment of brain function and pathology changes, are increasingly showing great potential in supporting clinical diagnosis also in the early and even preclinical phases of dementia. This review will summarize the most recent evidence on fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose-, amyloid -, tau -, and neuroinflammation – PET tools, highlighting strengths and limitations and possible new perspectives in research and clinical applications. Appropriate use of PET tools is crucial for a prompt diagnosis and target evaluation of new developed drugs aimed at slowing or preventing dementia.
Over the past few decades, research on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has focused on pathomechanisms linked to two of the major pathological hallmarks of extracellular deposition of beta-amyloid peptides and intra-neuronal formation of neurofibrils. Recently, a third disease component, the neuroinflammatory reaction mediated by cerebral innate immune cells, has entered the spotlight, prompted by findings from genetic, pre-clinical, and clinical studies. Various proteins that arise during neurodegeneration, including beta-amyloid, tau, heat shock proteins, and chromogranin, among others, act as danger-associated molecular patterns, that—upon engagement of pattern recognition receptors—induce inflammatory signaling pathways and ultimately lead to the production and release of immune mediators. These may have beneficial effects but ultimately compromise neuronal function and cause cell death. The current review, assembled by participants of the Chiclana Summer School on Neuroinflammation 2016, provides an overview of our current understanding of AD-related immune processes. We describe the principal cellular and molecular players in inflammation as they pertain to AD, examine modifying factors, and discuss potential future therapeutic targets.
Neurodegeneration elicits neuroinflammatory responses to kill pathogens, clear debris and support tissue repair. Neuroinflammation is a dynamic biological response characterized by the recruitment of innate and adaptive immune system cells in the site of tissue damage. Resident microglia and infiltrating immune cells partake in the restoration of central nervous system homeostasis. Nevertheless, their activation may shift to chronic and aggressive responses, which jeopardize neuron survival and may contribute to the disease process itself. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) molecular imaging represents a unique tool contributing to in vivo investigating of neuroinflammatory processes in patients. In the present review, we first provide an overview on the molecular basis of neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases with emphasis on microglia activation, astrocytosis and the molecular targets for PET imaging. Then, we review the state-of-the-art of in vivo PET imaging for neuroinflammation in dementia conditions associated with different proteinopathies, such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Parkinsonian spectrum