PET Probes Reveal Cell Function in Immune System

PET Probes Reveal Cell Function in Immune System

Barbara Kram, Editor | May 18, 2010

The next step will be testing the two probes in humans with a range of diseases, including cancer and auto-immune disorders, to confirm the work.

Witte and his colleagues licensed the FAC probe to Sofie Biosciences, which is owned in part by Witte and other UCLA faculty members. Researchers created the small molecule by slightly altering the molecular structure of one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs, gemcitabine. They then added a radiolabel so the cells that take in the probe can be seen during PET scanning.

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The probe measures the activity of a fundamental cell biochemical pathway called the DNA salvage pathway, which acts as a recycling mechanism that helps with DNA replication and repair. All cells use this biochemical pathway to different degrees. But in lymphocytes and macrophages that are proliferating during an immune response, the pathway is activated to very high levels. Because of that, the probe accumulates at high levels in those cells, Witte said.

Partial support for this work came from a tools and technology grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2009, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 12 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 10 consecutive years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at http://www.cancer.ucla.edu.

The stem cell center was launched in 2005 with a UCLA commitment of $20 million over five years. A $20 million gift from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in 2007 resulted in the renaming of the center. With more than 200 members, the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research is committed to a multi-disciplinary, integrated collaboration of scientific, academic and medical disciplines for the purpose of understanding adult and human embryonic stem cells. The center supports innovation, excellence and the highest ethical standards focused on stem cell research with the intent of facilitating basic scientific inquiry directed towards future clinical applications to treat disease. The center is a collaboration of the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the UCLA College of Letters and Science. To learn more about the center, visit our web site at http://www.stemcell.ucla.edu. To learn more about the center, visit our web site at http://www.stemcell.ucla.edu.