Navigation Links
MRI reveals genetic activity
Date:3/25/2014

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- Doctors commonly use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose tumors, damage from stroke, and many other medical conditions. Neuroscientists also rely on it as a research tool for identifying parts of the brain that carry out different cognitive functions.

Now, a team of biological engineers at MIT is trying to adapt MRI to a much smaller scale, allowing researchers to visualize gene activity inside the brains of living animals. Tracking these genes with MRI would enable scientists to learn more about how the genes control processes such as forming memories and learning new skills, says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT associate professor of biological engineering and leader of the research team.

"The dream of molecular imaging is to provide information about the biology of intact organisms, at the molecule level," says Jasanoff, who is also an associate member of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research. "The goal is to not have to chop up the brain, but instead to actually see things that are happening inside."

To help reach that goal, Jasanoff and colleagues have developed a new way to image a "reporter gene" an artificial gene that turns on or off to signal events in the body, much like an indicator light on a car's dashboard. In the new study, the reporter gene encodes an enzyme that interacts with a magnetic contrast agent injected into the brain, making the agent visible with MRI. This approach, described in a recent issue of the journal Chemical Biology, allows researchers to determine when and where that reporter gene is turned on.

An on/off switch

MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves that interact with protons in the body to produce detailed images of the body's interior. In brain studies, neuroscientists commonly use functional MRI to measure blood flow, which reveals which parts of the brain are active during a particular task. When scanning other organs, doctors sometimes use magnetic "contrast agents" to boost the visibility of certain tissues.

The new MIT approach includes a contrast agent called a manganese porphyrin and the new reporter gene, which codes for a genetically engineered enzyme that alters the electric charge on the contrast agent. Jasanoff and colleagues designed the contrast agent so that it is soluble in water and readily eliminated from the body, making it difficult to detect by MRI. However, when the engineered enzyme, known as SEAP, slices phosphate molecules from the manganese porphyrin, the contrast agent becomes insoluble and starts to accumulate in brain tissues, allowing it to be seen.

The natural version of SEAP is found in the placenta, but not in other tissues. By injecting a virus carrying the SEAP gene into the brain cells of mice, the researchers were able to incorporate the gene into the cells' own genome. Brain cells then started producing the SEAP protein, which is secreted from the cells and can be anchored to their outer surfaces. That's important, Jasanoff says, because it means that the contrast agent doesn't have to penetrate the cells to interact with the enzyme.

Researchers can then find out where SEAP is active by injecting the MRI contrast agent, which spreads throughout the brain but accumulates only near cells producing the SEAP protein.

Exploring brain function

In this study, which was designed to test this general approach, the detection system revealed only whether the SEAP gene had been successfully incorporated into brain cells. However, in future studies, the researchers intend to engineer the SEAP gene so it is only active when a particular gene of interest is turned on.

Jasanoff first plans to link the SEAP gene with so-called "early immediate genes," which are necessary for brain plasticity the weakening and strengthening of connections between neurons, which is essential to learning and memory.

"As people who are interested in brain function, the top questions we want to address are about how brain function changes patterns of gene expression in the brain," Jasanoff says. "We also imagine a future where we might turn the reporter enzyme on and off when it binds to neurotransmitters, so we can detect changes in neurotransmitter levels as well."


'/>"/>

Contact: Sarah McDonnell
s_mcd@mit.edu
617-253-8923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. A study using Drosophila flies reveals new regulatory mechanisms of cell migration
2. Passive acoustic monitoring reveals clues to minke whale calling behavior and movements
3. Novel membrane reveals water molecules will bounce off a liquid surface
4. National study reveals urban lawn care habits
5. UEA research reveals 4 new man-made gases in the atmosphere
6. Yosemite bears and human food: Study reveals changing diets over past century
7. Research reveals first glimpse of brain circuit that helps experience to shape perception
8. Study reveals new ways deadly squirrelpox is transmitted to red squirrels
9. Population bomb may be defused, but research reveals ticking household bomb
10. How our brain networks: Research reveals white matter scaffold of human brain
11. Social or stinky? New study reveals how animal defenses evolve
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
MRI reveals genetic activity
(Date:12/7/2016)... LONDON , Dec. 7, 2016   Avanade ... most successful Formula One teams in history, exploit biometric ... pit stop performance and maintain the competitive edge against ... in 2016. Avanade has worked with ... a range of biometric data (heart rate, breathing rate, ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... 6, 2016  Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. (NYSE and SIX: ... offering of €500.0 million principal amount of its 1.414% senior ... its 2.425% senior unsecured notes due 2026. ... December 13, 2016, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.  ... The Company intends to use the ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... , Dec. 6, 2016 Securus ... justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, corrections ... jointly announced today a five (5) year funding ... agreement to expand the rehabilitation and reentry support ... PEP History Established in 2004, the Prison Entrepreneurship ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/8/2016)... Mass (PRWEB) , ... December 08, 2016 , ... ... genetic data bioInformatics portal. In response to client demand KbioBox developed a sophisticated ... edit biodesign program. Both are accessible from KBioBox’s new website, https://www.kbiobox.com/ ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... December 08, 2016 , ... This CAST ... approvals for biotech crops. The authors focus on the economic effects in countries that ... approval of new biotech crops and the resultant risk of low level presence (LLP) ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... , Dec. 8, 2016  HedgePath Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ... discovers, develops and plans to commercialize innovative therapeutics ... of common stock were approved for trading on ... trading on the OTCQX, effective today, under the ... the OTCQX market, companies must meet high financial ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... 8, 2016  Partnering to fuel Philadelphia,s ... Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (" ... company of Independence Blue Cross; and Safeguard Scientifics ("Safeguard") ... for a $6 million funding initiative over a four ... Responding to a burgeoning economic vitality in digital ...
Breaking Biology Technology: