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2008 Grants - Seibyl
Imaging Noradrenergic Function in Alzheimer's Disease
John Seibyl, M.D.
Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders
New Haven, Connecticut
2008 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Growing evidence suggests that Alzheimer's disease strongly affects the locus ceruleus (LC), a part of the brain located on the brain stem. People with Alzheimer's suffer significant losses of LC brain cells called noradrenergic neurons. These losses, in turn, reduce levels of norepinephrine, a chemical messenger produced by the neurons. Scientists believe norepinephrine plays important roles in promoting the brain's learning and memory abilities. Damage to the noradrenergic system likely contributes to the cognitive deficits seen in Alzheimer's disease.
John Seibyl, M.D., and colleagues have developed an imaging technique that will enable them to study the noradrenergic system's role in Alzheimer's. This technique involves "highlighting" a protein called norepinephrine transporter (NET) on brain scans. NET transports norepinephrine to different parts of a cell. By determining NET activity levels on the scans, the researchers can assess the extent of disease-related damage to the noradrenergic system.
For this grant, Dr. Seibyl and colleagues will use their NET imaging technique with human participants who have early-stage Alzheimer's disease. They will administer scans to each participant over a period of 9 to 12 months. The researchers hope to determine the extent of noradrenergic system damage in these participants over time. They will also look for correlations between NET activity and cognitive impairment.
The results Dr. Seibyl's effort could lead to a novel technique for both diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's disease.