Brain scanner 'to help dementia fight'

Brain scanner 'to help dementia fight'

A scanner is to be installed at the University of Edinburgh to help scientists identify what changes occur in a dementia-affected brain.

It is hoped it will provide the most accurate picture to date of what goes on when cognitive decline afflicts an individual, while it could also enable experts to determine which patients would most benefit from certain treatments or therapies.

By using magnetic resonance imaging scans with positron emission tomography, the device will provide researchers with high-resolution pictures of the brain's tissue. 

This will allow individual molecules within the brain to be tracked, while the effects of any courses of treatment can be ascertained. 

The provision of this scanner has been made possible thanks to £6.8 million of funding from the Medical Research Council as part of the Dementias Platform UK Imaging Network.

It is believed this is the first scanner of its type in the country. 

Director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology Professor Ian Deary, who led the bid, said: "Advanced brain imaging and stem cell research are likely routes to better understanding of the causes and progress of dementias.

"It is heartening to see the huge and fast-growing challenge of cognitive decline and dementia being tackled head-on by the MRC's Dementias Platform UK."

However, the capabilities of this device are not limited to the degenerative disease. A variety of organs throughout the body can be studied, meaning experts can find out more about heart and lung disease. 

The scanner will live at the Clinical Research Imaging Centre and co-director of the centre Professor Edwin van Beek said it would "complement facilities" at the university, "which are helping research across the spectrum of human health, from pregnancy to ageing".

Around 820,000 individuals across the UK are thought to have some form of dementia, with this figure expected to reach one million by 2021. 

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