Agent for change

Clinicians and researchers can get a direct view of the inner workings of live nerves in the brain, thanks to the development of a new imaging agent by scientists at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Named after the university, Case Imaging Compound is used to visualize changes in myelin membrane, a material that defines characteristics of vertebrates and is essential to the proper function of the nervous system. Destruction or changes in myelin cause a number of neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.

So far, clinicians and researchers could only evaluate myelin changes through in-vitro or postmortem tissue staining, says Yanming Wang, PhD, associate professor of radiology, chemistry and biomedical engineering, and director of the Radiopharmaceutical Division of the Case Center for Imaging Research, who led the efforts in collaboration with Robert Miller, PhD, vice dean for research. “Using this imaging agent, myelin changes in live subjects can be directly detected and quantified for the first time,” says Wang.

The ability to examine myelination in living subjects has long been sought as an indispensible tool for clinical studies in neurological disorders and other myelin-related diseases for early diagnosis and treatment aimed at myelin repair, Wang says.

The team’s discovery was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.