New technique images gene expression in mice

June 21, 2004

PHILADELPHIA, PA, June 21, 2004 - Fifteen years ago, a new age of genetic medicine seemed right around the corner. As it turns out, identifying genetic flaws has proved easier than getting corrected genes to work in the cells that need them. Researchers at the Departments of Nuclear Medicine (Radiology) and Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University may be able to help. They have demonstrated a technique that provides a picture of genetic expression in living mice.

The study used genetic material that should theoretically correct the genetic defect that causes cystic fibrosis, one of the most debilitating, and ultimately fatal, genetic diseases. The results of the study were presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine's 51st Annual Meeting.

Using the radioactive tracer iodine-125 FIAU and a custom-built small animal imaging system that combines x-ray and planar gamma scintigraphy, the research team demonstrated that the new genetic material was being expressed in the lungs of the mice, exactly where it was needed. When refined, this technique may prove useful for researchers testing novel gene delivery methods.

According to Dr. Zhenghong Lee, PhD, "Though the results are preliminary, they are extremely encouraging." The investigators will continue testing in their mice model systems and will work to translate these promising results to human patients once their preliminary studies are completed.

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal genetic pulmonary disease that causes abnormal mucus to accumulate in the lungs and digestive system. Affecting approximately 30,000 Americans, cystic fibrosis afflicts mostly children and, at one time, took its victims in their teens. Researchers have come a long way in treating the symptoms of disease, and this has allowed victims to live longer, but a cure has yet to be discovered.

The Society of Nuclear Medicine is holding its 51st Annual Meeting June 19-23, 2004, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. Hot topics for the 2004 meeting include techniques for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease; advanced imaging for the diagnosis, staging, and treatment of cancer; nuclear cardiology; and the collaboration between nuclear medicine and bioengineering in the fight against cancer.
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Society of Nuclear Medicine

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