Published: 2016-02-08 10:12 | Updated: 2016-02-08 10:45

100 000 USD for research on functional biomarkers in Alzheimer's disease

In Alzheimer's disease (AD), the first damages to the nervous system can occur several decades before disease onset. In a new project, funded by the American Alzheimer's Association, researchers will examine the possibility of early diagnosis and evaluation of drugs using new functional biomarkers.

”An early and accurate diagnosis is important for patients and their families as well as for the health care system”, says Project investigator Taher Darreh-Shori, senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet´s Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Translational Alzheimer Neurobiology.

”We will examine a compound, which we call CH26, with promising potential as a functional biomarker. Hence, it could provide valuable information at an early stage whether a person will develop Alzheimer's disease”.

Experimental studies shows that CH26 binds well to the enzyme Choline acetyltransferase (ChAT; being read Cat). The enzyme is essential in the production of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, which in turn is associated with memory and cognitive abilities. In AD, the cholinergic signal system is the first to be damaged.

Using the CH26 compound, researchers hope to be able to measure ChAT and retrieve information on the current functional state of the cholinergic signal system. The idea is to use CH26 as a ChAT tracer. This way, the analysis can be done using a brain imaging technique called PET (positron emission tomography).

Hope is that the CH26 compound also could be used to evaluate the efficacy of new drugs to treat AD.

”A drug initiated during the early stages of the disease progression could focus on restoring the balance of ChAT, and thus also of Acetylcholine. With a biomarker that measures such changes, we can assess whether the drugs are working or not”, says Taher Darreh-Shori.

The research project is entitled "Novel Lead ChAT PET tracer as early diagnosis and theragnostic biomarker". Researchers associated to the project are Professor Agneta Nordberg, Professor Bengt Långström and Postdoc Rajnish Kumar.