Neuro-Imaging: Assisting the diagnosis of dementia

In 2015, an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide were living with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia representing 60 to 70% of all cases of dementia worldwide. The neuropathological hallmarks of AD are: the presence of extracellular deposits of ß-amyloid peptides, intra-neuronal neurofibrillary tangles, and the predominance of neocortical neuronal degeneration.

An overview of misfolded protein depositions with their associated histopathology and clinical manifestation is shown in the figure below which was published recently along with an overview of approaches to visualize them.


Source: Jovalekic et al. (2017) New protein deposition tracers in the pipeline. EJNMMI Radiopharmacy and Chemistry, January 2017, 1:11.

Accurate diagnosis and early identification of cognitive and functional impairment due to AD and other etiologies are critical for optimization of patient care and initiation of appropriate therapies. Life Molecular Imaging’s focus on AD is driven by the limitations of conventional diagnostic modalities. Although history-taking, neuropsychological tests and structural brain imaging are considered a mainstay of clinical diagnosis in patients with evidence of cognitive decline, these tests cannot diagnose AD with very high certainty particularly at an early stage, nor can they sufficiently rule out AD as the underlying etiology of cognitive decline.

Better detection methods of the neuropathological hallmarks of AD are therefore needed to reduce the frequency of misdiagnosis. Fortunately, radiotracers applied with modern imaging technologies are now available to accurately detect these protein depositions. When used in conjunction with other clinical tests, in vivo imaging technologies and molecular imaging in particular can assist in the diagnosis of AD by detecting the presence or absence of ß-amyloid plaques.

Beta-amyloid imaging has been incorporated into major AD therapeutic trials. There are several compounds currently investigated that have shown beta-amyloid reduction after treatment using beta-amyloid PET imaging. For a comprehensive overview, please see the following article ( The effect on cognition of removing  beta-amyloid from the brain is to be determined.


Florbetaben, an 18F-labeled stilbene derivative, trade name Neuraceq® (florbetaben F18 injection), is a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical developed to visualize ß-amyloid plaques in the brain. The tracer successfully completed a global multicenter phase 0–III development program. Neuraceq was first approved in the EEA via a centralized procedure on 20 Feb 2014. It was subsequently approved by the FDA in the United States on 19 Mar 2014, in South Korea on 19 Dec 2014, in Japan on 25 Oct 2016, in Canada on 22 Feb 2017 and Switzerland on 23 Aug 2017. A marketing authorization application has been granted in Taiwan in 2019.


Recent publications florbetaben:

  • Bullich et al. (2021) Early detection of amyloid load using 18F-florbetaben PET. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021 Mar 27;13(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s13195-021-00807-6.
  • de Wilde et al. (2018) Association of Amyloid Positron Emission Tomography With Changes in Diagnosis and Patient Treatment in an Unselected Memory Clinic Cohort: The ABIDE Project. JAMA Neurol. 2018 Jun 11. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.1346.
  • Ceccaldi et al. (2018) Added value of 18F-florbetaben amyloid PET in the diagnostic workup of most complex patients with dementia in France: A naturalistic study. Alzheimers & Dementia, Mar;14(3):293-305. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2017.09.009.


A research program is running to develop an 18F-labeled compound targeting Tau, a potential biomarker for diagnosing non-AD dementias as well as for monitoring neurodegeneration in AD-related dementia. Tau tangles are an important measure of neuronal death and correlate strongly with cognitive decline. Detection of Tau may therefore contribute to advanced monitoring of cognitive performance in patients with dementia. With PI-2620 a suitable lead compound has been identified, that is currently being further investigated in clinical studies.

Recent publications about PI-2620

  • Song et al. (2021) Feasibility of short imaging protocols for [18F]PI-2620 tau-PET in progressive supranuclear palsy. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2021 May 22. doi: 10.1007/s00259-021-05391-3.
  • Palleis et al. (2021) Cortical [18 F]PI-2620 Binding Differentiates Corticobasal Syndrome Subtypes. Mov Disord. 2021 May 5. doi: 10.1002/mds.28624.
  • Brendel et al. (2020) Assessment of 18F-PI-2620 as a Biomarker in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. JAMA Neurol. Published online July 07, 2020. Click here to access the pdf
  • Mormino et al. (2020) Tau PET imaging with 18F-PI-2620 in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2020 Jun 23 Online first Click here to access the pdf
  • Beyer et al. (2020) Early-phase 18F-PI-2620 tau-PET imaging as a surrogate marker of neuronal injury” Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2020 Apr 21 Online first Click here to access the pdf
  • Mueller et al. (2020) Tau PET imaging with 18F-PI-2620 in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy controls: a first-in-human study. J Nucl Med. 2020 Jun;61(6):911-919. Click here to access the pdf

Initial clinical results have been presented at recent scientific conferences. For more detailed information see also the following reports:

SNMMI 2019: PET Imaging Effective in Detecting Tau Deposits in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

AD/PD 2017 conference report from Alzforum about Tau tracers in development

At CTAD, Tau PET Emerges as Favored Outcome Biomarker for Trials

2017—A Year in Research

Illustrative example for visualization of Tau deposition in an AD case (upper row) using PI-2620. Brain areas colored in yellow-red show increased binding of the tracer and indicate Tau deposition whereas no cortical tracer accumulation was found in the non-demented control (lower row).



Another CNS product candidate is an 18F-labeled deuterated monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) ligand specifically targeting activated astrocytes during neuroinflammation. An early component of neuroinflammation, astrogliosis is involved in neurodegenerative disorders including AD, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. PET imaging of activated astrocytes during neuroinflammation would enhance characterization and monitoring of disease progression and therapy. A Phase I study is currently planned to further investigate this 18F-MAO-B ligand.