Developing radiotracers for imaging studies in addiction

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Molecular imaging using positron emission tomography (PET) continues to provide new knowledge about how brain circuits are altered by addictive drugs. Chemist Joanna Fowler, Director of the Center for Translational Neuroimaging at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and a pioneer in the development of radioactively "tagged" molecules used with PET, will give a talk on these radiotracers at the 232nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, California, at 8:25 a.m. Pacific Time on Thursday, September 14, 2006, in Room 270 of the Moscone Convention Center.

"Addiction is a brain disease that is devastating for families and society," said Fowler. "Chemistry -- through the development of radiotracers that can monitor the distribution and kinetics of drugs and receptors in the brain -- is at the core of understanding the addictive process and finding new ways to help people overcome it."

In PET studies, radiotracers (compounds labeled with a radioactive form of certain chemical elements such as carbon or fluorine) are injected into a research subject's bloodstream. A PET scanner picks up the radioactive signal from the tracer and continuously tracks its concentration and movement through the body. The data can be used to reconstruct three-dimensional images that reveal where the compound goes in the body/brain and how long it stays, for example.

The Brookhaven group, led by Fowler, has developed radiotracers to track the movement of various addictive drugs including cocaine, nicotine, and methamphetamine, and also to measure the levels of certain "chemical messengers," or neurotransmitters, and their receptors in the brain. PET studies using these radiotracers have revealed, for example, that all addictive drugs elevate levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, a chemical that helps us experience feelings of pleasure, reward, and motivation -- and also plays a ro

Contact: Kay Cordtz
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

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