Hyperpolarized xenon-MR Alzheimer's brain study gets new funding
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'A new window on the brain'
may inform evidence-based
drug development

Hyperpolarized xenon-MR Alzheimer's brain study gets new funding

por Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
The Weston Brain Institute in Canada will put over $700,000 into new Alzheimer's research using hyperpolarized xenon gas MR scanning techniques. The money will fund the first large-scale clinical trial in the world using the gas to take brain images.

Dr. Mitchell Albert, a researcher and chemistry professor at Lakehead University and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute is spearheading the three-year effort. Albert co-invented hyperpolarized gas MR while in graduate school at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and joined Thunder Bay and Lakehead in 2011.

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The use of hyperpolarized xenon MR should “provide a more sensitive measurement of brain function in Alzheimer’s patients,” Albert said in a statement by the university.

“It’s a new window on the brain,” he told Lokalee.com, adding, “No one has looked at these images before. We don’t know what we’re going to see. So, it’s very, very exciting.”

In addition, the research will offer advantages for testing new treatments for the condition – especially drug testing. “The enhanced detection capabilities of our hyperpolarized technique with MR will encourage an evidence-based approach to drug development, since more people will want to participate in clinical trials,” he advised, adding that this will also aid in the evaluation of new drugs.

“If successful, Dr. Albert’s imaging tools will have great impact in developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Alexandra Stewart, executive director at the Weston Brain Institute.

A 2014 International Innovation interview with Albert about his work discussed the advantages that come from combining hyperpolarized gas with MR.

These include:

  • The creation of high-resolution, 3-D images with no ionizing radiation

  • Increase of MR signal intensity 100,000-fold

  • Functional imaging of lungs and brain, as well as imaging of molecular functions of biochemical processes using biomarkers

Specific advantages of hyperpolarizing Xenon MR include:

  • Xenon is safe and has no background signal in biological tissue

  • HP 129Xe readily enters the bloodstream when inhaled and moves easily across the blood-brain barrier

  • HP 129Xe MR can reveal pathophysiological information not available through other diagnostic techniques

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