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UCB and Yale collaborate on brain scanning project

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    Scientists from UCB and Yale University have used a novel approach to scan the brain to look for changes linked to common brain disorders. Their work has been published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

    Chemical synapses allow brain cells to form circuits within our central nervous system. Changes in these synapses are associated with numerous brain disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

    The team, which included UCB scientists Joël Mercier and Jonas Hannestad, developed a novel radioactive tracer [11C]UCB-J that binds to an important protein found at the synapses and can be detected by positron emission tomography (PET) to measure the number of synapses in the living human brain.

    The synaptic protein in question, SV2A, plays a role in regulating the release of certain brain chemicals. It was first discovered during the work that led to the development of one of UCB’s established epilepsy medicines.

    This new brain imaging technique is a major advance in its own right. Previous studies have only been able to look at synaptic density after patients have died. What’s new about this work by UCB and Yale scientists is that the team were looking at the living brain in human subjects for the first time.

    The implications of this research could be significant. The study demonstrates how a non-invasive method can be used to follow the progression of many brain disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, by measuring changes in synaptic density over time.

    This offers health professionals a window on the brain health of their patients which was never possible before. Doctors could now have the opportunity to track any changes in synaptic density over time or to assess whether medication is slowing down the loss of brain cells.

    It also potentially opens the door to earlier intervention if doctors observe the early signs of brain disorders and can prescribe suitable therapies.

    The project is a great example of how UCB is collaborating with the best minds in science to advance medical knowledge that could have future benefits for people with serious brain disorders.

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Posted by mark allison, 17 August 2016 I myself have epilepsy. My siblings have, or have had epilepsy. Some other relatives have epilepsy. My epiletologist retired or he may have asked me if I would like to be in this study. If you want to talk about Alzheimer's then my great grandmother, and grandmother had that. My mom has now started down the same road that leads to Alzheimer's.