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2024 Imaging Research in Alzheimer's and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases Program (IR-AND)

Development of chemical exchange saturation transfer MRI for dementia with Lewy bodies

Can a new MRI method be used to track dementia with Lewy bodies?

Phillip Zhe Sun, Ph.D.
Emory University
Altanta, GA - United States


Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a brain disease characterized by the presence of protein clumps in the brain known as Lewy bodies, which are made up of clumps of a specific protein called alpha synuclein to form Lewy bodies. Lewy body formation is thought to cause nerve cell death and impact cognitive function. However, it is not as well understood how Lewy bodies change during the progression of the disease, leading to a lack of reliable biomarker tools to diagnose and monitor the progression of DLB. 

In initial studies, Dr. Phillip Sun and colleagues developed a special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) called chemical exchange saturation transfer MRI (CEST MRI) that could potentially detect Lewy bodies in DLB.

Research Plan

Building on their initial findings, Dr. Sun and the team will recruit 12 individuals with DLB and 12 cognitively unimpaired individuals for their studies. First, they will optimize their CEST MRI method to increase the sensitivity of the technique to detect Lewy bodies. Next, with their refined method, the researchers will perform the CEST MRI scans on the individuals and examine whether the method can accurately detect DLB. 


The results of this project could identify a non-invasive and reliable method for detecting brain changes linked to DLB. If successful, the results could also be used to help diagnose DLB at an early stage.

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