Main responsible: Gitte Moos Knudsen

This research includes the development and application of neuroimaging techniques, including Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT), and structural and biochemical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Furthermore, we attempt to develop PET radioligands that enable novel and functional measures of different members of the serotonin receptor family. We also evaluate novel radioligands for other systems, such as pre- and postsynaptic markers. We also investigate drug occupancy with PET and have industrial collaborations with this purpose.

Thematically, it overlaps with Functional MRI, Clinical Neurology, Neuropsychiatry, and Data Analysis. Our research focuses on neurobiological aspects of brain function in the healthy brain, such as relationships between brain structure and function in cognition, sleep and in response to pharmacological or non-pharmacological interventions. We have special expertise within neuroimaging of the serotonergic neurotransmitter system, resulting in publicly available human brain atlases. We also study the dopaminergic and nicotinic transmitter systems, SV2A, beta-amyloid, epigenetics, second messengers and neuroinflammation.

NRU runs a high-resolution SPECT-CT AnyScan Mediso scanner in the North Wing of Rigshospitalet. The facility is used both diagnostically and for research purposes.

We also collaborate closely with the PET and Cyclotron Unit at Rigshospitalet and have access to their PET scanner. The collaboration covers both research and developmental activities and provides NRU with access to state-of-the-art PET- and MR-PET scanner facilities.

NRU runs its own 3T Siemens Prisma MR-scanner in the North Wing of Rigshospitalet; it is dedicated for brain research. We have made the MR scanner facilities partly available for our close collaborators at the Department of Diagnostic Radiology for clinical investigations with a clear research potential.

The process of PET radioligand development is a time and resource-demanding task that resembles that of pharmaceutical drug development in that promising compounds may fail at any stage of the sequential development process. The development process draws on highly specialized knowledge from fields such as medicinal chemistry, radiochemistry, and in vivo pharmacology. The phases that a PET radioligand for a given target undergoes involve: 1) chemical synthesis of cold ligands and in vitro test of which receptors the molecules bind to, 2) radiolabeling to incorporate a positron emitting isotope into the molecule, 3) in vitro and in vivo evaluation by testing the radiolabeled compound in the living brain of an experimental animal such as rats and pigs with PET.

The compounds that we develop into radioligands are obtained from our close collaboration partner at the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology at University of Copenhagen, other academic groups around the world or through collaboration from with industry partners.

The research theme is central in the following centers/projects based at NRU:

Examples of previous publications: