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Ongoing Research

What We Do

Our PET methodology research supports translational collaborative research investigations.  Examples of these collaborations are listed to the side.  These include in vivo PET imaging studies of epigenetic enzymes that regulate gene expression (i.e., histone deacetylases, HDAC) in the brain in patients with Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, of increased expression of the 18-kDa translocator protein (TSPO) as a marker of neuroinflammation in chronic pain, of mis-folded protein deposition (e.g., amyloid-beta plaques and tau aggregates) in healthy aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Down Syndrome (DS) and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), and of alterations in glucose metabolism to better understand early risk factors for the development of Type 2 diabetes.  These projects offer exciting training opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and medical students, as well as post-doctoral fellows and faculty.
  • PET imaging of epigenetic changes in Huntington’s disease

Using the PET imaging probe, [11C]Martinostat, we are working with colleagues to image the distribution and expression levels of the histone deacetylate (HDAC) enzymes that impact the regulation of DNA expression in the brain of subjects with Huntington’s Disease.   

Lead Investigator:  Dr. D. Rosas

  • Evaluation of novel PET imaging agent for measuring pathological tau protein deposition in human brain

We are characterizing the in vivo kinetics of [18F]MK-6240, a PET imaging radiotracer that binds to aggregated tau protein that accumulates in some neurodegenerative disorders.  We will perform this evaluation in healthy control subjects and individuals with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.  

 Lead Investigator:  Dr. J. Price

We are also using state-of- PET/CT scanning to develop an optimal imaging approach that improves sensitivity for the detection of early changes in tau deposition in brain.  These studies will also be performed on a longitudinal basis.      Lead Investigators:  Dr. N. Vasdev / Dr. J. Price

  • Exploring mechanisms of altered peripheral glucose uptake in African American women

We are using PET imaging to measure the kinetics of FDG metabolism in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue in order to better understand why young non-obese African American women may have a distinct form of lower insulin sensitivity, relative to young non-obese Caucasian women.

Lead Investigators:  Dr. J. DeLany (Florida Hospital) / Dr. J. Price

  • Identify biomarkers associated with progression of AD from its prodromal stages to dementia in adults with Down syndrome (DS)

We are using PET imaging to measure neuropathological amyloid (Florbetapir PET) and tau (Flortaucipir PET) protein deposition in DS subjects, along with measures of cognitive function, functional MRI, structural MRI and other metrics, as part of a multi-site effort (Columbia University, University of California Irvine, and MGH).  

Contact PI:  Dr. N. Schupf (Columbia University)/ MGH PI:  Dr. F. Lai

  • Boosting mind-body mechanisms and outcomes for chronic pain

We are supporting PET imaging efforts to measure neuroinflammation in migraine study participants, with Dr. M. Loggia and other colleagues, who are assessing mechanisms underlying potentially synergistic effects of mindfulness meditation and transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation to reduce migraine symptoms. 

Lead Investigators:  Dr. V. Napadow / Dr. B. Rosen

  • Imaging Epigenetic Mechanisms in Parkinson’s Disease

We are supporting PET imaging efforts to measure regional brain HDAC expression and distribution in patients with Parkinson disease, using [11C]Martinostat.  

Lead Investigators:  Dr. S. Gomperts / Dr. C. Wang


We are grateful for the support from these organizations:

  • Alzheimer’s Association

  • National Institutes of Aging

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Athinoula A. Martinos Center

149 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, United States


Ongoing Research