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2016 Grants - Moreno-Gonzalez
PET Imaging to Detect Alzheimer’s-Like Pathology After Brain Injury
Ines Moreno-Gonzalez, Ph.D.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
2016 New Investigator Research Grant
Can an imaging technique help determine how traumatic brain injury may promote brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease?
Recent evidence suggests that traumatic brain injury (TBI) may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Moderate to severe forms of TBI have been shown to potentially double one’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease. However, even milder TBIs, such as concussions, may increase dementia risk.
People who experience TBI develop many of the same brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s, including the accumulation of harmful protein clumps called beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, as well as an increase in brain inflammation. Thus, there is a need for brain imaging tests that can accurately measure these changes, even in the mildest forms of TBI. This will help clinicians accurately diagnose the severity of TBI and examine its effect on long-term brain health and Alzheimer’s risk.
For their research grant, Ines Moreno-Gonzalez, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to use an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET) to visualize the brains of mice that have experienced mild or severe TBI. The researchers will use a combination of three different PET “tracers” that can highlight brain changes related to Alzheimer’s risk — beta-amyloid plaques, tau tangles and brain inflammation — and assess how these changes develop over time following TBI.
The results of this study could lead to the development of PET imaging as novel diagnostic tool for TBI in humans. This work may also shed new light on the links between TBI and dementia risk, clarifying how Alzheimer’s-related brain changes occur following injury. Improving the detection and diagnosis of TBI could allow for potential therapies to be administered as early as possible which may help prevent or reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.