Journal article Open Access

Translocator Protein-18 kDa (TSPO) Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Imaging and Its Clinical Impact in Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Dupont, Anne-Claire; Largeau, Bérenger; Santiago Ribeiro, Maria J; Guilloteau, Denis; Tronel, Claire; Arlicot, Nicolas


In vivo exploration of activated microglia in neurodegenerative diseases is achievable by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging, using dedicated radiopharmaceuticals targeting the translocator protein-18 kDa (TSPO). In this review, we emphasized the major advances made over the last 20 years, thanks to TSPO PET imaging, to define the pathophysiological implication of microglia activation and neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and also in psychiatric disorders. The extent and upregulation of TSPO as a molecular biomarker of activated microglia in the human brain is now widely documented in these pathologies, but its significance, and especially its protective or deleterious action regarding the disease's stage, remains under debate. Thus, we exposed new and plausible suggestions to enhance the contribution of TSPO PET imaging for biomedical research by exploring microglia's role and interactions with other cells in brain parenchyma. Multiplex approaches, associating TSPO PET radiopharmaceuticals with other biomarkers (PET imaging of cellular metabolism, neurotransmission or abnormal protein aggregates, but also other imaging modalities, and peripheral cytokine levels measurement and/or metabolomics analysis) was considered. Finally, the actual clinical impact of TSPO PET imaging as a routine biomarker of neuroinflammation was put into perspective regarding the current development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases.

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