Alpha-Synuclein PET tracer development-an overview about current efforts

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Neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) are manifested by inclusion bodies of alpha-synuclein (α-syn) also called α-synucleinopathies. Detection of these inclusions is thus far only possible by histological examination of postmortem brain tissue. The possibility of non-invasively detecting α-syn will therefore provide valuable insights into the disease progression of α-synucleinopathies. In particular, α-syn imaging can quantify changes in monomeric, oligomeric, and fibrillic α-syn over time and improve early diagnosis of various α-synucleinopathies or monitor treatment progress. Positron emission tomography (PET) is a non-invasive in vivo imaging technique that can quantify target expression and drug occupancies when a suitable tracer exists. As such, novel α-syn PET tracers are highly sought after. The development of an α-syn PET tracer faces several challenges. For example, the low abundance of α-syn within the brain necessitates the development of a high-affinity ligand. Moreover, α-syn depositions are, in contrast to amyloid proteins, predominantly localized intracellularly, limiting their accessibility. Furthermore, another challenge is the ligand selectivity over structurally similar amyloids such as amyloid-beta or tau, which are often co-localized with α-syn pathology. The lack of a defined crystal structure of α-syn has also hindered rational drug and tracer design efforts. Our objective for this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of current efforts in the development of selective α-syn PET tracers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number847
Issue number9
Number of pages45
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant, agreement no 813528.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • Alpha-synuclein, Imaging, Positron emission tomography, Synucleinopathies

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