PET imaging of the neurovascular interface in cerebrovascular disease

24 Jul 2017

Cerebrovascular disease encompasses a range of pathologies affecting different components of the cerebral vasculature and brain parenchyma. Large artery atherosclerosis, acute cerebral ischaemia, and intracerebral small vessel disease all demonstrate metabolic processes that are key to pathogenesis. Although structural imaging has been a mainstay of stroke clinical care and research, it has limited ability to detect these pathophysiological processes in vivo. Positron emission tomography (PET) provides a means to detect and quantify metabolic processes in each facet of cerebrovascular disease non-invasively. The use of PET has helped shape the understanding of key concepts in cerebrovascular medicine, including the vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, salvageable ischaemic penumbra, neuroinflammation and selective neuronal loss after ischaemic insult, and the relationships between chronic hypoxia, neuroinflammation, and amyloid deposition in cerebral small vessel disease. This review considers how the ability to image these processes at the neurovascular interface has contributed to our understanding of cerebrovascular disease and facilitated translational research to advance clinical care.