Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New imaging technique allows doctors to 'see' molecular activity

A new technique that will enable doctors to ‘see’ things that are happening at the molecular level using standard imaging techniques that has been developed by Oxford scientists. Dr Robin Choudhury and his colleagues at the University of Oxford have developed a marker that get attached to particular molecules involved in inflammation, as a result, these molecules ‘light up’ on MRI scans.
The ‘VCAM-1’ molecule plays a key role in inflammation, which contributes to many diseases, including multiple arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, sclerosis and atherosclerosis (a hardening and narrowing of the arteries which can lead to stroke and heart attack).By injecting into the body markers that attach themselves to VCAM-1 molecules, that are visible under MRI scanning, the researchers were able to see exactly where the molecules were in operation, and in what quantities. The ultimate goal is to facilitate the earlier diagnosis, improve treatment techniques and provide more precise monitoring of disease progression that will help in the exact treatment of the disease.
The team has developed the technique to using it in multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. In MS the body’s own immune system, through inflammation attacks the fatty tissue surrounding nerve fibres (myelin), which help nerves carry signals, that leads to a range of problems with vision and movement.
Compared to conventional MRI techniques, the new technique has the potential to reveal disease activity much earlier and, crucially, before tissue destruction has occurred and as a result earlier intervention with drug treatments guided by this information may alter disease progression.

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