Osteoporosis is estimated to affect over half of adults in the United States over the age of 50, and 1 in 3 women over the age of 80 will suffer a hip fracture;of those who fracture, nearly 15-20% die within 1 year. Overall, the costs associated with osteoporosis in the United States alone were estimated at $19 billion in 2005. This project involves the design, development and evaluation of an new molecular imaging radiotracers for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) studies of osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal diseases (e.g., osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis) involving potential bone loss. The project will develop radiolabeled forms of known high affinity inhibitors of cathepsin K, a cyteine protease that in highly expressed in osteoclasts and that is responsible for type I collagen degradation and bone resorption. The potential for in vivo imaging of cathepsin K has been demonstrated using optical methods, and this project will extend this concept to a clinically translatable imaging method using radionuclide labeling. This grant will prepare series of radiolabeled inhibitors based on the published cyanopyrimidine and pyrrolopyrimidine scaffolds, using isotopic (carbon-11) substitution or synthesis of fluorinated analogs (for fluorine-18 labeling). The compounds selected as initial targets for carbon-11 labeling all have high affinity for human cathepsin K (<10 nanomolar), excellent selectivity over cathepsins L and S (100-1000 fold selective) and all are readily labeled using [11C]methyl iodide. New fluorinated analogs where fluoroethyl groups replace methyl groups will be evaluated in vitro for inhibitory action on cathepsin K enzymatic activity, using a fluorescent assay, and potent (<10 nM) inhibitors labeled using analogous [18F]fluoroalkylation reactions. In vivo proof of concept studies to demonstrate osteoclast-dependent localization of radiotracers will be done in rats using focal skeletal injections of RANKL (receptor activator for nuclear facktorB ligand, to induce osteoclastogenesis) or osteoprotogerin (to inhibit osteoclastogenesis). Extent of bone loss will be monitored by microCT. Verification that radioactivity localization is cathepsin-specific will be done in RANKL treated rats and blocking with cold doses of enzyme inhibitor. Successful radiotracers that exhibit high uptake and retention in RANKL-treated animals that is blocked by cold inhibitor, and reduced uptake in osteoprotegrin-treated animals, can then be further evaluated as potential radioligands for human imaging. Detection of increased osteoclastic cellular activity may provide new diagnostic criteria that take osteoclast activity into account in addition to standard measures of structural integrity, and thus provide immediate feedback on the efficacy of a chosen treatment protocol before waiting for further downstream gain or loss of bone to occur. .

Public Health Relevance

Radiolabeled forms of inhibitors of the potent protease cathepsin K will be prepared as radioligands for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. These radioligands will be evaluated as biomarkers of the up-regulation of numbers and activity of osteoclasts, the cells responsible for the degradation of bone in osteoprorosis and related musculoskeletal diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Clinical Molecular Imaging and Probe Development (CMIP)
Program Officer
Lester, Gayle E
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Medicine
Ann Arbor
United States
Zip Code
Feng, Ting; Li, Qiaochu; Zhang, Cheng et al. (2016) Characterizing cellular morphology by photoacoustic spectrum analysis with an ultra-broadband optical ultrasonic detector. Opt Express 24:19853-62
Feng, Ting; Kozloff, Kenneth M; Tian, Chao et al. (2015) Bone assessment via thermal photo-acoustic measurements. Opt Lett 40:1721-4
Feng, Ting; Perosky, Joseph E; Kozloff, Kenneth M et al. (2015) Characterization of bone microstructure using photoacoustic spectrum analysis. Opt Express 23:25217-24
Rodnick, Melissa E; Shao, Xia; Kozloff, Kenneth M et al. (2014) Carbon-11 labeled cathepsin K inhibitors: syntheses and preliminary in vivo evaluation. Nucl Med Biol 41:384-9