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2015 Grants - Tanifum
Probing Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity in APP/PSEN1 Mice by 19F MRI
Eric Tanifum, Ph.D.
Baylor College of Medicine
2015 New Investigator Research Grant to Promote Diversity
Can a novel imaging technique that detects damage to the blood-brain barrier be used for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease?
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a layer of cells that surrounds the brain and protects it from harmful molecules circulating in the blood. Current research has found that as people age, this layer may break down and become “leaky.” Such damage may promote the development of brain changes characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, such as the formation of protein clumps called amyloid plaques. However, scientists do not know exactly how the BBB becomes leaky or how this may be related to Alzheimer’s disease onset and progression. Since damage to the BBB may precede nerve cell degeneration, methods to identity its breakdown could help in the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
To learn more about how the blood-brain barrier and Alzheimer’s are linked, Eric Tanifum, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to develop and test a novel brain imaging technique called fluorine-19 magnetic resonance imaging (19F MRI). This technique uses a fluorescent chemical that can “highlight” damage to the BBB — as well as identify molecules that cross the barrier into the brain — on MRI scans. The investigators will administer their technique on Alzheimer’s-like mice and analyze the MRI scans to examine blood-brain barrier damage and beta-amyloid plaque development.
Dr. Tanifum’s study could help determine if and when the BBB becomes leaky and how this relates to increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It could also provide a better understanding of how the barrier becomes damaged and how much damage is necessary to promote amyloid build-up. Ultimately, such findings could lead to a novel, non-invasive procedure for determining who is at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.