Biological: Mapping receptors in the brain

12-Jul-2013 - United Kingdom

Scientists in the UK and Germany have developed and tested new compounds that enhance the contrast of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain to show the location of receptor molecules linked to serious neurological disorders in real time.

In research published in Chemical Science, they describe the synthesis of a series of novel MRI contrast agents that can pinpoint and bind reversibly to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in vitro.

NMDA receptors are glutamate receptors that play a key role in memory, learning and neurotransmission. Misregulation and overstimulation of NMDA receptors has been associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Using two independent methods, MRI and optical microscopy, the scientists demonstrate that their new molecules bind selectively to NMDA receptors on cell surfaces in the brain and that this binding is reversible in model systems. This shows that the probes can respond to changing glutamate levels during actual neural events, allowing the scientists to effectively map the location of these receptors on brain cell surfaces in real time.

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