Moving Science, Drug Development

Southern Research and LSU Health Sciences Study Validates Using Imaging to Study the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease in Preclinical Animal Studies

July 2, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. and SHREVEPORT, La. — Using preclinical molecular imaging, scientists from Southern Research Institute and LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport have published data which could lead to better diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Their study — “PET Imaging a MPTP-Induced Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease Using the Fluoropropyl-Dihydrotetrabenazine Analog [18F]-DTBZ (AV-133)”— was published in a recent edition (June 18, 2012) of PLoS ONE—an online scientific publication which provides free access to scientific studies that will accelerate progress in science and medicine.

Study findings suggest that MPTP-induced Parkinson’s disease in a mouse model is appropriate for following the degeneration of the dopaminergic system and that the[18F]-DTBZ analog is a potentially sensitive radiotracer that can be used to diagnose changes associated with Parkinson’s by positron emission technology (PET) imaging in mice.

The paper was co-authored by James Toomey, DVM, and Andrew Penman, Ph.D., of Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, and Michael Mathis, Ph.D., of LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. It is available online at

Many scientists believe finding the cure for Parkinson’s will require a much deeper understanding of what causes the disease.

“This imaging pilot validates a diagnostic approach which could lead to better diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Penman, Vice President of Drug Development at Southern Research. “By validating this imaging model we can acquire better data faster, more cheaply, and also limit the number of animals required to conduct a study in the search for new drugs to treat this debilitating disease.”

“Parkinson’s researchers who are working to develop novel therapeutics for this disease now have a new option—a validated, non-invasive model that further quantifies the use of preclinical imaging as a way to follow the degeneration process of Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Mathis, Director, Small Animal Imaging Facility at the LSU Health Sciences Center.

Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, with as many as one million Americans living with Parkinson’s. It is estimated that seven to ten million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease. The combined direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s including treatment, social security payments and lost income from inability to work is estimated to be nearly $25 billion per year in the U.S. alone. Medication costs for an individual with Parkinson’s disease averages $2,500 a year. Therapeutic surgery can cost up to $100,000 per patient.

Southern Research and the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, along with the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, formed a collaborative partnership last year to conduct preclinical imaging studies.

Southern Research conducts both contract research and basic research for clients, providing preclinical drug discovery, development, and clinical trial support services in cancer, infectious diseases, and CNS/neurological disease to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Scientists conduct translational science to invent small molecules and advance them from the design stage to the clinic. Services available include medicinal chemistry, molecular biology, biochemistry, high-throughput screening and a full set of in-house GLP development services including toxicology, ADME/PK, animal models, formulations, and bioanalytical services.

About Southern Research

Southern Research Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization founded in 1941 that conducts preclinical drug discovery and development, advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, and environment and energy research. More than 550 scientific and engineering team members support clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries. Southern Research is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., with facilities in Wilsonville, Ala., Frederick, Md., and Durham, NC and offices in Huntsville, Ala., New Orleans, La., and Washington, DC.

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