Multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated neurological disease that affects around 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million worldwide. In the last few years, there has been a large effort by the academic community and pharmaceutical industry to develop drugs that can reverse demyelination and restore neurological function. One challenge for the translation of these therapies to humans is how to accurately measure their effects. Positron emission tomography (PET) has the potential to provide quantitative images of underlying biochemical processes such as demyelination.
In a recent paper* published by the journal Scientific Reports, Dr. Pedro Brugarolas and his colleagues describe the development and testing in animal models of a new PET tracer for demyelination. Their new tracer is based on the MS drug 4-aminopyridine (4AP, dalfampridine) which binds to potassium channels in demyelinated axons allowing the visualization of demyelinated lesions in animal models of MS noninvasively.
Dr. Brugarolas is an Assistant Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and a Radiochemist at the MGH Gordon Center. His research at the Center focuses on developing novel small molecule PET tracers labeled with fluorine-18 and carbon-11
*Brugarolas, P., Sánchez-Rodríguez, J. E., Tsai, H.-M., Basuli, F., Cheng, S.-H., Zhang, X., et al. (2018). Development of a PET radioligand for potassium channels to image CNS demyelination. Scientific Reports, 8 (1), 607. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-18747-3