There is a need to disentangle the etiological puzzle of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, whose clinical phenotypes arise from known, and as yet unknown, pathways that can act distinctly or in concert. Enhanced sub-phenotyping and the identification of in vivo biomarker-driven signature profiles could improve the stratification of patients into clinical trials and, potentially, help to drive the treatment landscape towards the precision medicine paradigm. The rapidly growing field of neuroimaging offers valuable tools to investigate disease pathophysiology and molecular pathways in humans, with the potential to capture the whole disease course starting from preclinical stages. Positron emission tomography (PET) combines the advantages of a versatile imaging technique with the ability to quantify, to nanomolar sensitivity, molecular targets in vivo. This review will discuss current research and available imaging biomarkers evaluating dysregulation of the main molecular pathways across age-related neurodegenerative diseases. The molecular pathways focused on in this review involve mitochondrial dysfunction and energy dysregulation; neuroinflammation; protein misfolding; aggregation and the concepts of pathobiology, synaptic dysfunction, neurotransmitter dysregulation and dysfunction of the glymphatic system. The use of PET imaging to dissect these molecular pathways and the potential to aid sub-phenotyping will be discussed, with a focus on novel PET biomarkers.
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