Robert Y. Moore, M.D., Ph.D., Love Family Professor and professor of neurology and neuroscience and co-director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh, analyzed positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brains of 41 Parkinson's patients and 16 normal individuals obtained at the Hammersmith Hospital, part of the Imperial College of Medicine in London, England. The scans focused on two small areas found deep in the brain called the locus coeruleus and raphe, areas that control attention and wakefulness. His analysis found positive evidence of degeneration of nerve cells in these areas.
"We were able to see changes in these areas for the very first time," Dr. Moore said. "Before now, we could only see these changes on post-mortem examinations. The implications of this are enormous because it shows that we can now begin to gain a better understanding of the progression of this disease and treatment using PET."
PET is an imaging method that provides high-resolution pictures of the chemistry of the brain by measuring the concentration of positron-emitting radioisotopes. An individual undergoing a PET scan is administered a radiopharmaceutical a drug containing a radioactive isotope specifically formulated to be taken up by specific groups of nerve cells intravenously.
"PET scans are important in helping us develop methods to make an earlier diagnosis of Parkinson's disease and even to identify people who have no symptoms but are at risk of developing the disease so that we can begin treatment and prevent severe disability from occurring," he said. "There are sever
Contact: Alan Aldinger
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center