As you might have heard from us before, the pursuit of Parkinson’s disease biomarkers is high on the priority list of The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF). Levels of alpha-synuclein in the brain—measured through imaging tools—could be a biomarker that would help researchers diagnose the disease better and test potential therapies faster.
Scientists are trying to develop one necessary imaging tool that would help us get there: a radioactive PET tracer.
“This is a drug with a radioactive tag that can be read by a brain scan called a positron emission tomography or PET scan. And if we can make a radioactive drug that binds to alpha-synuclein, we’d be able to visualize the distribution of alpha-synuclein in the brain by looking at the brain scan,” said Jamie Eberling, PhD, MJFF senior associate director for research programs. Jamie is the first author on a paper published yesterday in Journal of Parkinson’s Disease on the Foundation’s efforts to develop an alpha-synuclein tracer.
“It could assist in the diagnosis of patients,” said Mark Frasier, PhD, MJFF vice president of research programs. “But I think more tangibly we know that there are many drugs in development that target the alpha-synuclein protein … And, increasingly, the biotech companies are saying to us, ‘It’s great to have a druggable target like alpha-synuclein, but unless we have a biomarker, a way to measure, whether this drug is making a difference on the target, it’s really going to be an uphill battle to test these drugs and measure them clinically.’”
Jamie and Mark spoke to MJFF Contributing Editor Dave Iverson about the critical need for an alpha-synuclein tracer and what the Foundation is doing to get us there for the latest in our Michael J. Fox Foundation Parkinson’s Podcast series.