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2014 Grants - Scott
Lead Optimization of High Affinity Radiotracers for PET Imaging of Tau
Peter Scott, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
The protein tau, which is important for brain cell structure and nutrient transport, becomes altered in Alzheimer’s disease. This abnormal tau tends to accumulate into neurofibrillary tangles, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. This process can hinder cell-to-cell communication in the brain and lead to memory loss and other cognitive problems. However, the study of tau’s role in dementia has been hampered by a lack of imaging techniques that can accurately “trace” tau protein in the living brain.
In preliminary studies, Peter Scott, Ph.D., and colleagues have been working to develop compounds that can “highlight” tau effectively on positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans. These compounds need to differentiate the various types of tau aggregates, each of which may have a distinct role in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. To date, the researchers have developed a novel, carbon-based molecule that can identify abnormal tau protein with more accuracy than any previous tracer.
For their current grant, Dr. Scott and colleagues hope to develop and test another compound that can detect tau protein with similar accuracy. This new compound, however, will be a fluorine-based molecule. Because fluorine takes longer to lose its radioactivity, the new molecule can be used in a wider variety of PET scanning facilities. Dr. Scott’s team will test the ability of this compound to detect tau accumulations in animal models. If the study’s results are successful, the fluorine-based tracer could be used to detect tau protein accumulation in human clinical trials. Such work could ultimately improve our understanding of tau’s role in Alzheimer’s, lead to novel methods of detecting the disease at its earliest stages and support the development of new treatments by monitoring the effectiveness of a drug.