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Wall Receives Grant to Improve Alzheimer's Diagnoses
Professor Jonathan Wall, PhD, Director of the Preclinical and Diagnostic Molecular Imaging Laboratory at UT Graduate School of Medicine, recently received a four-year RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to conduct research that could assist in diagnosing Alzheimer's and other amyloid-related diseases.
Amyloidosis is a process in which normally soluble, functional proteins aggregate into highly structured fibrils that then deposit in tissues and organs, resulting in a decrease in organ function. This process occurs in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease and is seen in other tissues such as the heart, kidneys and liver in patients with primary (AL) amyloidosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, there are no methods available in the U.S. to visualize the extent or amount of these amyloid deposits, or to determine the response to anti-amyloid therapies directly.
The NIDDK grant will provide approximately $450,000 per year for the research team to develop and evaluate novel methods to image amyloidosis, including deposits that accumulate in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, using PET and SPECT scanners available at UTGSM. The research will target the amyloid biomarker heparan sulfate proteoglycan and test antibody-derived and peptide tracer molecules that bind specifically to this molecule, which is a constituent of all known amyloid deposits. After testing reagents in animal models of the disease, researchers hope to translate their findings into the clinic and perform imaging studies at the medical center.
The team includes researchers from the Human Immunology and Cancer Program and Preclinical and Diagnostic Molecular Imaging Laboratory: Steve Kennel, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Radio-biochemist; Tina Richey, Research Associate and Laboratory Animal Expert; Sallie Macy, Research Medical Technologist; Alan Stuckey, Research Leader and Imaging Specialist; and Angela Williams, Research Associate.
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