Date: 15 Dec 2010

Gene Targeting MRI: Nucleic Acid-Based Imaging and Applications

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Abstract

Gene action plays a role in neural cell migration, learning processes, stress response, drug addiction, cancer, mental health, psychiatric and neurological disorders, as well as neurodegenerative diseases. Studies also show that upregulation of certain gene activities in neurons may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other progressive cognitive disorders many decades after the alteration itself occurs. Endogenous, environmental stress-related, or drug-induced chemical imbalances in the brain affect the homeostasis of gene activities in neurons in specific brain regions and contribute to the comorbidity of mental illness and substance dependence. On the other hand, altered gene activities are also a necessary part of repair processes after brain injury. Our general well-being is governed by the highly regulated gene activities in our brains. A better understanding of gene activities and their relationship to the progression of neurological disease can help the research and medical communities develop necessary measures for early intervention, as well as plan more appropriate interventions or new therapeutic approaches that can benefit a broad spectrum of patients who will be or have been affected by brain diseases. We developed a non-invasive imaging technique that allows real-time assessment of gene transcription profiles in live brains. This imaging method has the potential to provide first-hand information about the progression of neurological disorders by gene targeting and cell typing, and it could elucidate a surrogate marker for therapeutic efficacy for future planning of treatments for human diseases. We have established a workable and reproducible MRI technique in live rodent brains.