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Funded Studies

PET Imaging Probe Development for Alpha-synuclein

Study Rationale:
Alpha-synuclein is a protein that can clump to form Lewy bodies and lewy neurites, which are a hallmark of Parkinson's disease. Being able to identify these clumps in living patients would be a definitive marker for the disease. An imaging agent for use in PET scans to visualize alpha-synuclein could improve diagnostic accuracy for Parkinson's and accelerate the development of new therapeutics.

The team aims to develop a novel highly selective PET imaging agent for alpha-synuclein.

Study Design:
The investigators plan to identify new leads using a high-throughput screen of a large DNA-encoded library. This is a novel approach that will enable the screening of billions of small molecules in a short period of time and introduce diversity into the potential tracers in development. Once the team has identified potential leads, they plan to begin development and validation, including in postmortem tissue and patient-matched stem-cell models.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease:
A tracer for imaging alpha-synuclein mRNA could improve early diagnostic accuracy for Parkinson's. Furthermore, quantifying the distribution of alpha-synuclein in vivo could improve our understanding of disease progression.

Next Steps for Development:
The team will summarize data from this project for potential human imaging studies and eventually for Parkinson's patient imaging.

Additional Support: 
Grants made through the Ken Griffin Alpha-synuclein Imaging Competition are made possible in large part through a leadership gift from Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO of the Chicago-based global investment firm Citadel. 


  • Changning Wang, PhD

    Boston, MA United States

  • Stephen Gomperts, MD, PhD

    Boston, MA United States

  • Vikram Khurana, MD, PhD

    Boston, MA United States

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