Brain scan study tracks Alzheimer's

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A unique brain scan study has tracked the course of Alzheimer's disease in a patient from early development to death.

Scientists hope the findings will improve understanding and diagnosis of the disease, the most common form of dementia.

In 2002 the 56-year-old patient became the first person in the world to undergo a PET brain scan for signs of Alzheimer's. Doctors can use a PET scan to monitor the build-up of beta amyloid protein deposits in the brain, a key feature of Alzheimer's.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found high concentrations of beta amyloid protein early on when their patient was only suffering slight memory loss.

Levels remained unchanged during the disease. In contrast, the scans showed energy metabolism in the brain progressively reduced as the patient's memory deteriorated.

Lead researcher Prof Agneta Nordberg said: "Our study shows that modern imaging technology known as molecular imaging makes it possible to discover the disease early."