I just read an article called Monitoring Cell Death Could Help Cancer Treatment. While now they are studying these monitors for cells that have been attacked by tumors there is a potential that it may be able to be used in neurology to target cells that have been damaged by stroke and neurogenerative diseases.
An Israeli company called Aposense has developed an imaging marker that, when used with PET scans, indicates the presence of dying cells.
“Apoptosis, the process by which cells commit suicide, is a vital mechanism in the body that weeds out damaged, infected, or otherwise unhealthy cells. No matter what the disease or the tissue, cells undergoing apoptosis have very distinct characteristics–the electrical profile of their membrane changes, the cells become more acidic, and lipids in the membrane lose their rigid order and become jumbled. Aposense believes it has found a way to target a trace marker to this combination of traits, which would let doctors image cell death.”
They have designed small molecules with very high specificity for the apoptotic cell. A small molecule recognizes the set of alterations in the apoptotic membrane of a cell and it binds to the cell, goes through the cell membrane, and accumulates.
The reason that this tracer might be able to be used to target cells damaged by storke and neurogenerative diseases is because the characteristics of apoptotic cells are universal.
Perhaps someday it may be used to detect dying neurons in someone who is in the very early stages of FTD.