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17 November 2014, 06:02 | Updated: 17 November 2014, 07:59
A high-tech scanner which could enable scientists to develop better treatments for dementia and other brain conditions is to be installed at a Scottish university.
The new equipment - said to be the first of its kind in Scotland - will give scientists the clearest picture yet of what goes wrong in the brain when dementia occurs, the University of Edinburgh said.
Researchers will be able to use the device to look in detail at what is going on inside patients' brains.
It will also help doctors to identify patients who are most likely to benefit from new therapies, and to monitor the effects of their treatment.
The system combines Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging to produce high-resolution pictures of the tissue of the brain.
It will allow researchers to track the movement of individual molecules within the brain's cells.
The Medical Research Council has awarded £6.8 million to support the programme as part of the Dementias Platform UK Imaging Network. The funding will also support stem cell research into the ageing brain.
Professor Ian Deary, director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, 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.''
Other organs of the body can also be studied with the device, enabling insights into diseases of the heart, blood vessels, lung and various types of cancer.
The scanner will be housed by the Clinical Research Imaging Centre at the University of Edinburgh.
Professor Edwin van Beek, Co-Director of the University of Edinburgh's Clinical Research Imaging Centre, said: "The MRI-PET scanner will complement existing facilities at the University of Edinburgh, which are helping research across the spectrum of human health from pregnancy to ageing.''