The Children’s Ataxia Telangiectasia Neuroimaging Assessment Project, also known as CATNAP, which will use the latest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to reveal the processes underlying the neurological symptoms in A-T, is about to start recruiting participants. Dr Rob Dineen and his team from The University of Nottingham will use sophisticated MRI techniques to look at how the brains of children with A-T differ from those who do not have the condition.
This project is a direct outcome of the clinical research conference which the A-T Society held in Cambridge last year, where the Nottingham team met people involved in other imaging projects in the USA and Australia and in a series of follow-up meetings organised by the A-T Society, the project was developed.
A key aim of the study is to identify bio-markers. These are biological indicators which can be measured and show the progress of a biological process. In this case, they would help us to measure the progress of the neurological problems in A-T and as a result help us to can help to assess whether potential new treatments are working.
The study may also throw light on the processes that are taking place in the brain. This is one of the biggest questions in current A-T research. We know a lot about the role of the ATM protein in cells. However, we do not understand the mechanisms by which an absence of ATM leads to the death of cells in the brain responsible for some aspects of movement, while other cells don’t seem to be affected.
The two-year project, has been given the title CATNAP, which stands for Children's Ataxia-Telangiectasia Neuro-imaging Assessment Project. It is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and the A-T specialist centre at Nottingham City Hospital. It is funded jointly by the A-T Children's Project and Action for A-T.
The CATNAP project will recruit 30 patients from the UK National A-T clinic and 20 children without A-T who will all undergo advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI imaging does not use radiation so it is completely safe for children with A-T. Once the project is fully established, the A-T Society will be writing out to families with more information and to identify people who would like to participate.
William Davis, chief executive of the A-T Society said: “The A-T Society is delighted that the CATNAP project can now move ahead. It brings together a highly skilled team, the latest technology and the clinical understanding of the world’s longest-established A-T clinic in Nottingham. It has the potential to make great strides forward in our understanding of the condition and to unlock possible ways forward to finding a cure.
“This project underlies the value of the conference series we inaugurated at Cambridge in 2012 and was continued at Nijmegen in November 2013. It clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the A-T Society’s strategy of bringing scientists together and developing the A-T research capacity in the UK. We are very grateful to the A-T Children's Project and Action for A-T for funding it.”