Researchers image neuroinflammation in MS mouse model

June 24, 2016

Molecular imaging is bringing researchers closer to identifying autoimmune inflammation triggers in multiple sclerosis while providing a means of evaluating next-generation therapies for MS, according to researchers. A new study furthers a growing body of research pointing to a process called sphingolipid signaling as a primary mechanism in inflammatory disease processes.

The study's authors set out to uncover the function of sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1 (S1P1) in animal models of MS through noninvasive means. The researchers created tracers that bind directly with S1P1 and are visible on PET scan. These tracers allowed them to observe S1P1 function in mouse models of MS and healthy controls. What they found was that the PET imaging was able to detect an increase in S1P1 expression in animals with an inflammatory response when compared to healthy controls. They also found that the compounds crossed the blood brain barrier in healthy animals, which is a significant limiting factor in the development of central nervous system drugs.

Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, the researchers are confident that S1P1 is an ideal biomarker for imaging and new therapies. “These compounds represent promising PET tracers for imaging MS and other inflammatory diseases by quantitative assessment of S1P1 expression in the body,” said senior investigator Zhude Tu, Ph.D., a professor of PET radiochemistry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.

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