Developing New Tools to Measure Beta Cells

Tools to easily measure the amount of functioning beta cells in a person is a key goal to determine the progression of T1D and to measure the effect of potential therapeutics. One compound unique to the pancreatic beta cells has been proposed as a potential target for measuring beta cell mass using molecular imaging. One tracer called 18FAV-133 has shown some promising results as a potential imaging agent because of its ability to bind to a unique beta cell target, vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 (VMAT2). The present study explored the binding characteristics of 18FAV-133 in rat pancreas, demonstrating that it binds to multiple sites in the rat pancreas. Identification of the cause of specific binding of 18FAV-133 to rat pancreatic tissue may lead to improved methods of non-invasively imaging and measuring the amount of functional beta cells a person has.


Tsao HH, Skovronsky DM, Lin KJ, Yen TC, Wey SP, Kung MP. (2011). Sigma receptor binding of tetrabenazine series tracers targeting VMAT2 in rat pancreas. Nucl Med Biol. Oct;38(7):1029-34.

Ramifications for Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes:

18FAV-133 is currently in early stage clinical trials for pancreatic imaging. This new finding may allow the design of more specific targeted imaging agents allowing better measurement of functional beta cells.

JDRF Involvement:

JDRF did not support this study, but JDRF has previously supported preclinical studies and is currently supporting clinical efforts with this radiotracer.