Anatomy and Medical Imaging

Imaging biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases


Assoc. Prof. Miriam Scadeng
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Project code: MHS009

Currently there are no early biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease and most patients only present when the disease surfaces clinically, at which point the brain disease is extensive. Abnormal metal distribution in the brain has been associated with neurodegeneration and in particular with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. There may also be a relationship between the presence or loss of neuromelanin, a protein that scavenges metals in the brain. Neuromelanin is likely a protective protein. However, if the neuromelanin becomes “overloaded” with metals it reverts from having anti-oxidative protective properties to being pro-oxidative, and causing cell death. Some metals, when trapped in neuromelanin renders tissues paramagnetic and changes the signal on MRI scans. Thus MRI scanning may in the future be used to detect early neurodegenerative disease.  

The aim of this summer studentship is to map metal distribution in normal brain tissue and in patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases using spectrotropic techniques, and correlate with melanin distribution.