Cerebral Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Imaging Agents for Monitoring Als Therapy and Astroglia: From Chemicals to Rodents to Humans

Investigator: Henry F. Vanbrocklin, PhD
Sponsor: University of Montana

Location(s): United States


The EAAT2 molecule is a cell membrane protein that removes an excess of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Abnormalities in EAAT2 quantity or in its behavior have long been tied to ALS. This could make the molecule a good indicator, or biomarker, of nervous system health. At some point, it could provide a way to measure if treatment is effective.

In our supported research, we hope to create a radioligand (tracer) molecule targeted to the EAAT2 protein. The tracer will enable us to detect the EAAT2 biomarker noninvasively within the brain and spinal cord, using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. Our challenge comes in designing a tracer with a unique chemical structure — a molecule with a high affinity for the EAAT2 target protein, one that can penetrate the brain’s natural barriers and that reaches specific central nervous system tissues. Ultimately, data from our studies may lead to a noninvasive way to monitor ALS in the clinic.