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2018 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

PET imaging of mitochondrial dysfunction in tauopathy

Can a new tool to visualize early biological changes in Alzheimer's be developed?

Anna Barron
Nanyang Technological University
Singapore, Singapore


Alzheimer's related brain changes start a decade or more before an individual may experience memory loss. One of the brain changes involves impairment in the brain energy production system. Several studies show that very early on, mitochondria– a powerhouse of energy generation of cells- undergoes damage in Alzheimer's.

As a result, scientists believe that detecting these changes may serve as a tool to aid in early detection. Imaging approaches such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans, help with visualizing the brain's energy usage through injection of a chemical, known as tracer.

Research Plan

For their current grant, Dr. Barron and her team will develop an imaging tool to target the mitochondria, to see if it is amenable to seeing the changes in the Alzheimer's brain. The researchers will use a mouse model that develops Alzheimer's-like brain changes to test potential tools that may detect those brain changes and visualize abnormalities in the mitochondrial function. These experiments will be performed both in models of the early and late stages of the disease.

Furthermore, the research team will determine if they can reverse the damage to the brain's energy production by altering the mice genes. Finally, the researchers will examine if damage to the brain's energy production ultimately contributes to a loss of memory and nervous system functionality.


The study hopes to develop a novel way to image early changes in Alzheimer's and may help determine if mitochondria could be targeted when designing therapeutic approaches.

This project is sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, Colorado Chapter.

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