Choline metabolism in Alzheimer’s disease: hints as to possible markers

  • A. Nordberg
Part of the New Vistas in Drug Research book series (DRUG RESEARCH, volume 1)


For diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, it would be very important to have reliable early markers for Alzheimer’s disease. Since there’s still a lack of agreement between clinical diagnosis and histopathological examinations, we must try to find new diagnostic markers which allow us to characterize the course of the disease and determine the specificity of the dementia. Cholinergic deficits characterize Alzheimer brains and, recently, attention has been focused on the presence of cholinergic receptors on peripheral elements and on their role as peripheral markers for Alzheimer’s disease. A decrease in the number of muscarinic and nicotinic receptors has been measured in lymphocytes from Alzheimer patients. Another interesting finding is the presence of cholinergic neuron antibodies in serum and CSF (see McRae, this symposium).

In vivo imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography (PET), are promising techniques for the study of cholinergic receptor activity in human brain. In the attempt to visualize nicotinic receptors in vivo, the (+) and the (−) isomers of 11C-nicotine were given intravenously to Alzheimer patients and a lower uptake of both isomers (especially the (+) form) has been observed in the cortical areas of the brain compared to age-matched healthy volunteers. This observation prompts further PET studies in patients with a different progression of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in other types of dementia and following different therapeutic strategies. An in vitro acetylcholine release model using autopsy human brain tissue allows studies on functional cholinergic activity and its interaction with potential drugs in pathological tissue. This model will be a useful tool for the development of new drugs of potential use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


Positron Emission Tomography Alzheimer Patient Muscarinic Receptor Alzheimer Brain Positron Emission Tomography Study 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Nordberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PharmacologyUppsala UniversitySweden

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