BRAINPATH aims to build upon current developments in molecular imaging by creating an academic-industrial training and mobility network for the next revolution of imaging technology. Molecular in vivo imaging is a fertile area which combines expertise, state-of-art equipment and many disciplines and inter-sector work environments. Our goal is to better understand brain diseases and develop new preclinical imaging strategies. We believe optical imaging in particular represents a technology that has the potential to exploit further our knowledge in this area. Our main objective is to train a new generation of medical imaging scientists who, within the next 10-15 years, will bring optical brain imaging to the clinic. Indeed, it is envisaged that in the future optical imaging will be implemented as the fourth clinical modality in conjunction with the three already established clinical imaging techniques of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Molecular imaging of the brain is more challenging compared with other organs. However, optical imaging can potentially play an important role in the multimodal orchestra together with MRI, PET and CT. Light can be used to measure functional aspects of the brain. Moreover, it can provide wider functional contrast than current clinical imaging techniques. This is done by either intrinsic monitoring of physiological changes, e.g. fluorescence, absorption, or by external contrast such as the use of fluorescence probes. Importantly, optical imaging is generally non-invasive and the equipment needed for such measurements are of low cost. A final unmet need is to integrate the different imaging modalities so that complementary information can be obtained from each modality. BRAINPATH will address this need and provide novel opportunities for treating important brain diseases. We will exploit this potential through transfer of knowledge between disciplines and sectors through training a next generation of imaging scientists.
The BRAINPATH overall objectives are therefore to:
a) Develop improved and novel multimodal methodologies and approaches for optical brain imaging which add functional and molecular value to the current state-of-art clinical imaging techniques of CT, PET and MRI. This in turn will lead to improved diagnostic and therapeutic strategies in tackling brain disorders. We propose a holistic approach that covers the whole spectrum of imaging from (i) preclinical to clinical and (ii) from enabling tools (biological and hardware) to the data analysis (results);
b) Establish an international multidisciplinary network of Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and Experienced Researchers (ERs) that will (i) lay down the foundations by training a new generation of researchers familiar with working in this way, and (ii) enable the full exploitation of synergies between the involved partners.
The specific activities will be rolled out over four years in the following order: 1) To utilise Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MSI) as a high resolution molecular imaging technique to identify new biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and stroke-migraine, 2) To implement optical in vivo imaging further by applying emerging hybrid optoacoustic methods - Multispectral Optoacoustic Tomography (MSOTTM) - that will allow visualisation deeper inside brain tissue for (i) molecular imaging of existing and new biomarkers of the brain and (ii) functional imaging of the brain, 3) To harmonise multimodal tools and components (beds and coils) and software (algorithms) to allow co-registration of the optoacoustic images with current clinical imaging modalities of MRI, CT and PET and 4) To develop new therapeutic strategies for Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) where simultaneous multiple events can be now imaged by MSOTTM. In order for these objectives to be met, a combined academic-industrial approach is needed to allow for efficient merger of the portfolio of different disciplines (optics, electronics, mechanics, nanotechnology, chemistry, molecular biology, pathology). Besides the inter-sector collaboration and instigation of a scientific mobility network, BRAINPATH aims to achieve its scientific goals by inclusion of: a) Three experienced SMEs (PERC, icoMetrix and Medres) that operate in the molecular imaging field to assist with development of exploitable tools and biological in vivo models, b) A pair of world leading technology institutes to address the two innovative enabling technologies, MSI and MSOT, within this project, and c) Four brain pathology molecular imaging specialist groups from three academic institutions, MPI, LUMC and UA, to focus upon stroke, TBI, GBM and stroke-migraine.