Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health problem that raises the need to accurately measure its effects non-invasively. A biological target mechanistically linked to TBI and suitable for molecular imaging with diagnostic and prognostic implications could provide a quantitative non-invasive biomarker for TBI. Presently, such a biomarker does not exist. Multiple lines of evidence have demonstrated that TBI triggers a biochemical cascade that reduces the density of cerebral alpha7-nAChRs, one of the major subtypes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Preliminary data from our laboratory has demonstrated that our novel positron-emission tomography (PET) radiotracer [18F]ASEM can accurately report the distribution of alpha7-nAChRs in control animals and that it exhibits strikin bilateral reduction of binding (32-73%) in rats with controlled cortical impact (CCI) TBI model. Currently, [18F]ASEM is the only alpha7-nAChR radioligand that has demonstrated excellent imaging properties with high specific binding in rodent and non-human primate PET studies. The main objective of this proposal is to validate the PET imaging properties of [18F]ASEM in two models of TBI in rats, focal - CCI and diffuse - impact acceleration (IA). 1) Cerebral alpha7-nAChR binding and distribution will be measured with [18F]ASEM - PET in CCI and IA models of TBI in rats. In agreement with previous in vitro alpha7-nAChR autoradiography data in animals with TBI reported by others and our preliminary PET results, our hypothesis is that the cerebral specific binding of [18F]ASEM in TBI will be significantly reduced. The reduction of the [18F]ASEM specific binding will correlate with the TBI severity and progression. 2) The PET results will be confirmed by immunofluorescent staining that will demonstrate significant alteration of the alpha7-nAChR protein in TBI rat brain tissue (in neurons and glia). The experimental focus of this proposal is to carry out proof-of-concept studies and obtain evidence of the suitability of [18F]ASEM for quantification of alpha7-nAChRs by PET in TBI models in rats. Our future goal is to evaluate alpha7-nAChRs as a potential biomarker of TBI in humans by studying the course of receptor changes in TBI and their sensitivity to the effects of various treatments.

Public Health Relevance

The cerebral alpha7-subtype of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (alpha7-nAChR) has been implicated in a wide variety of diseases and conditions including traumatic brain injury (TBI). The goal of this proposal is to validate [18F]ASEM, the first highly specific PET radioligand for imaging alpha7-nAChRs, as a biomarker of TBI in two rat models. The availability of this PET radioligand has the potential to transform how we study and treat patients with TBI.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-ETTN-L (52))
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Hicks, Ramona R
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Johns Hopkins University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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