Dr. James is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Radiology and Neurology, within the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS). She received her BS in pharmacology and organic chemistry at the University of Sydney, where she also earned her PhD in radiochemistry/pharmacology and was awarded the University Medal.
For over fifteen years, Dr. James’s research has focused on designing, evaluating, and translating novel molecular imaging agents to improve the way we diagnose, treat, and understand devastating neurological diseases. In particular, she is interested in developing new positron emission tomography (PET) radiotracers for visualizing neuroinflammation with the goal of learning about the in vivo role, spatiotemporal dynamics, and different functional phenotypes of specific innate and adaptive immune cells throughout the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. Dr. James is also very interested in applying these tools to guide therapeutic selection for individual patients and as imaging biomarkers in clinical trials. As part of her work, Dr. James has multiple patented radiotracers, four of which are currently being used in clinical neuroimaging studies at Stanford and/or around the world. She also cofounded a company called Willow Neuroscience which is focused on developing immunomodulatory therapeutics and novel PET diagnostics for neurodegenerative diseases.
Neuroinflammation is a key pathological feature of many central nervous system (CNS) diseases. Although extensive work in preclinical rodent models demonstrate a significant role for both the innate and adaptive immune response in the initiation and progression of various neurological diseases, our understanding of these responses and their contribution to human disease remains very limited. Additionally, both beneficial and toxic inflammatory processes are associated with progression and remission of neurological disease, and the spatiotemporal course of these complex responses remain a mystery, especially in the clinical setting. Molecular imaging using positron emission tomography (PET) has enormous potential as a translatable technique to enhance our understanding of neuroinflammation in CNS diseases. In this talk, I will provide examples of PET radiotracers my lab is developing for quantifying and tracking different aspects of the immune response in multiple sclerosis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Specifically, I will discuss our latest research on radiotracers for translator protein 18 kDa (TSPO), triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 1 (TREM1), B lymphocyte surface antigens, and a novel dendrimer-based probe that is specific for activated microglia. Using these examples, I will share what we have learned about the spatiotemporal dynamics and different functional phenotypes of innate and adaptive immune cells throughout the progression of CNS diseases. Lastly, I will discuss how we can apply these tools to track disease progression, guide therapeutic selection for individual patients, and serve as surrogate endpoints in clinical trials.