Breaking down barriers in brain imaging

May 07, 2010

SNM's Molecular Imaging Center of Excellence wrapped up its Molecular Neuroimaging Symposium today in Bethesda, Md., at the Natcher Auditorium of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dima Hammoud, M.D., of the Clinical Center/NIH, and co-chair of the symposium's program committee, said, "We hope that by bringing together researchers and clinicians working in the field of molecular neuroimaging, we will stimulate interaction among speakers and attendees, foster collaboration and promote the rapid advancement of this emerging field."

Because of the multidisciplinary background of the audience and faculty--which included experts in chemistry, engineering, physics, molecular biology, neurosciences and imaging sciences--the first day of the symposium served as an introduction and general overview of current and new techniques used to study the brain. Today, the symposium's focus shifted to translational research.

"Our aim for this meeting is to bring the clinical and research communities together," said MICoE President Henry F. VanBrocklin, Ph.D., professor of radiology and director of radiopharmaceutical research in the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the symposium's program committee.

"Translating basic research into clinical techniques is a long and arduous task that requires input from both sides and constant communication between the people designing the scanners and probes and those who will eventually use them to improve the clinical care of patients."

Three topics were at the forefront of discussion: brain tumor imaging, neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders.

The day's activities started in the morning with a keynote presentation from Edward Neuwelt, M.D., Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, that identified strategies to overcome the blood-brain barrier for the treatment of brain tumors. The session that followed covered molecular imaging advances in the evaluation of primary brain tumors, including imaging hypoxia and cell proliferation, metabolic brain tumor imaging using high-field MRI and decoding gene expression in brain tumors using non-invasive imaging techniques.

The next session was devoted to molecular imaging biomarkers for detecting and monitoring the progression of neurodegenerative disorders and dementia. Chet Mathis, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, Pa., gave a lecture about future tracer development for human amyloid imaging in Alzheimer's disease. Another lecture discussed imaging and genetic biomarkers for assessing risk, onset and progression of Parkinson's disease.

The last session tackled illnesses that are commonly seen in psychiatric/neurobehavioral medicine. Lectures on early-onset mood disorders, the depression-dementia continuum and schizophrenia discussed the utility of molecular imaging in early diagnosis as well as in discovering the underlying causes of these afflictions. The day's events concluded with a final keynote speech, "From Molecules to Networks to Behavior," given by Jeff Petrella, M.D., Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.

This meeting was organized by SNM's Molecular Imaging Center of Excellence as a follow-up to a similar conference held at NIH in 2009 that focused on cardiovascular molecular imaging. The brain symposium was designed to continue this momentum and stimulate further growth in the field of molecular imaging.

The Radiological Society of North America, the Society of Radiopharmaceutical Science and the Society for Molecular Imaging also sponsored the event.

The project described was supported by Award Number R13EB011853 from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIBIB, the NINDS or the National Institutes of Health.

Society of Nuclear Medicine

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