During program years 2014–2018, a total of 45 high school, college and graduate students have participated in the Brain Health Alliance Virtual Institute (BHAVI), a project-based learning and research training program. BHAVI students have published 14 conference papers in clinical and translational research informatics and data sciences. BHAVI uses frequent videoconferencing between students and mentors as its primary collaboration tool, and overcomes obstacles to on-line education with support from on-site advisors.
Basic question: Can a total-body PET scanner be exploited to improve evaluation, monitoring and measurement of both peripheral and central demyelination in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients? We assume here that demyelination outside the brain may involve at least the spinal cord if not also possibly some of the larger peripheral nerves outside the spinal column in a manner that might be detected with the greater sensitivity and resolution of the Explorer PET-CT scanner. Initial approach: Adopt a cost-effective and reduced-risk approach initially for a pilot study by using commercially available and already FDA-approved amyloid PET tracers to follow radiotracer uptake in white matter, thereby tracking demyelination versus remyelination for MS patients in comparison with normal healthy subjects. This initial approach with the Explorer total-body PET scanner used for amyloid imaging should hypothetically enable monitoring of increased versus decreased activity in both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS), rather than only imaging the brain as performed in most conventional imaging evaluations for MS patients. Total-body amyloid PET imaging by the Explorer PET-CT scanner will be compared with analogous imaging by PET-MRI scanners. Future approach: Investigate other possible radiotracers (including those not yet FDA approved) that might be useful for monitoring demyelination, neuroinflammation and/or microglial activation in both the PNS and CNS of MS patients. Significance: Improved molecular imaging with new total-body PET scanners that provide greater sensitivity and better spatial resolution for quantitative measurement of demyelination and remyelination will support better decision-making for patient care and improved outcome measures for monitoring therapeutic drugs evaluated in clinical trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
If you are a student interested in applying for BHAVI 2020, information is now available at 2020 BHAVI programs.
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