Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have tested a novel positron emission tomography (PET) radiotracer that reveals gene expression patterns regulated by chromatin-modifying enzymes within the brain in a first in-human study (Wey H-Y et al. Sci Transl Med. 2016;8:351ra106). Alterations in such epigenetic activity has increasingly been associated with the pathophysiology of Alzheimer disease, schizophrenia, depression, addiction, among others.
The method uses the radiochemical [11C]Martinostat, an imaging probe that selectively binds certain histone deacetylase (HDAC) isoforms. In general, HDACs function to silence gene expression. Although several HDAC inhibitors are being studied for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, investigators have been unable to assess HDAC expression in the living brain.
Hampton T. Imaging Epigenetics in the Human Brain. JAMA. 2016;316(13):1349. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.13667