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Using imaging to bring the right treatments to the right patients in movement disorders

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    Visualizing tau with PET tracers
       
    A challenge in bringing treatment to people with movement disorder is early and accurate clinical diagnosis. Postmortem data have shown that movement disorders are caused by underlying brain pathologies involving different misfolded proteins. Simple, non-invasive methods to selectively detect specific misfolded proteins would help diagnosis and support appropriate treatment.

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    For the past few years, UCB has been collaborating with Life Molecular Imaging to investigate the utility of tau positron emission tomography (PET) in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

    A recently published study showed that the protein tau, which becomes misfolded in certain brain regions of people living with PSP, can be detected with the novel PET tracer [F-18]PI-2620. This imaging signal was not seen in the brains of healthy controls. Furthermore, it was not seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) or Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA) who have similar symptoms, but a different underlying pathology driven by alpha-synuclein misfolding, confirming its specificity for tau pathology. This is a big advance because there is currently no biomarker available that allows conclusions on a definite diagnosis of PSP. These results encourage further research and development of this imaging technology towards a fully validated tracer. A clinic-ready tau PET tracer could give neurologists increased confidence in making a differential diagnosis.

    The ability to detect and differentiate tauopathies from other neurodegenerative disorders will help to deliver potential therapies to those that will benefit the most. It may also allow the identification of people with tauopathies such as PSP before they develop symptoms, a stage where drugs that slow disease progression could potentially have the biggest effect.

    We are continuing to research and refine our molecular imaging tools and these initial results are contributions in our quest to bring the right solutions to people living with movement disorders.


    Brendel M, et al. JAMA Neurology 2020; doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.2526.

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