Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A University of Iowa faculty member has been awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health to understand how changes in the brain’s metabolism could lead to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

UI Department of Radiology
Vincent Magnotta

Vincent Magnotta, professor in the Department of Radiology, will use the award to advance a class of technology known as magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI). Unlike traditional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, which only produces images of tissues and organs, MRSI technology can also reveal the metabolic activities within bodily structures, such as the brain. Understanding the brain’s metabolism is important because metabolic changes are often associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

MRSI technology has yet to be fully used in patient care because of several technological challenges. To address those challenges — which include low image resolution — Magnotta plans to develop new MRSI technology that targets the brain, allowing physicians to better quantify and analyze brain metabolic changes. 

Because metabolic changes in the brain are known to be linked to neurodegenerative disorders, advances in MRSI technology could be used by physicians to screen for these conditions before symptoms emerge or by researchers to identify and assess treatment targets throughout the brain. 

“This funding will advance our ability to study age-related changes in brain metabolism and potentially provide early identification of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias," Magnotta says.

Magnotta and Mathews Jacob, professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department in the College of Engineering, are co-principal investigators on the award, along with Yan Li, from the University of California-San Francisco.  

The five-year award from the National Institute on Aging is for $3.9 million.