About me

I am a Senior Researcher at the Division of Clinical Geriatrics, where I perform research on positron emission tomography (PET) imaging in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative disorders in the spectrum of fronto-temporal degeneration (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).   

Research description

My research interests are focused on understanding the in vivo patterns of neuroinflammation, proteinopathies and brain function in aging, Alzheimer's disease (AD) and the spectrum of fronto-temporal degeneration (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In collaboration with clinicians, the ultimate aim is to develop early diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers with high clinical utility. 

Neuropathologically, these neurodegenerative disorders share a number of underlying biological features including protein aggregation, neuroinflammation and vascular/metabolic impairments. However, the interactions among these biological features and how they contribute to disease progression are still poorly understood. 

My research interest is focused on the in vivo characterization of proteinopathy, neuroinflammation and brain function using multi-modal MRI-PET imaging techniques, with a focus on clinical application. 

My current collaborative projects are:

1) "Investigate a novel measure of cortical microstructure and its relationship to protein aggregation in preclinical Alzheimer's disease and the spectrum of FTD-ALS"

In this project, I apply a novel diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) technique to measure cortical microstructure as a promising early diagnostic and prognostic biomarker in preclinical AD and across diverse neurodegenerative diseases. In this line of research, I have a close international collaboration with Patrizia Vannini from Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, Boston, US, and Juan Fortea and Victor Montal of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Recent findings were presented at the 2020 Alzheimer's Association International Conference:

"The relationship between cortical microstructural changes and in vivo amyloid-β and tau in aging and preclinical Alzheimer's disease", Rodriguez-Vieitez, Montal, Sepulcre, Lois, Hanseeuw, Vilaplana, Schultz, Properzi, Scott, Fortea, Johnson, Sperling, and Vannini.

Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA / Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Charlestown, MA, USA / Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden / Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain / Saint Luc University Hospital, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium / Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

2020 Alzheimer's Association International Conference, https://twitter.com/elenarv/status/1289170335477063680?s=20

 

Besides preclinical AD, I have investigated cortical microstructure in relation to astrocytosis in familial forms of AD:

“Cortical microstructural correlates of astrocytosis in autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease", Vilaplana*, Rodriguez-Vieitez*, Ferreira, Montal, Almkvist, Wall, Lleó, Westman, Graff, Fortea and Nordberg, Neurology 2020;94:1 *These authors contributed equally. IF 8.05, PMID: 32291295; https://n.neurology.org/content/94/19/e2026

 

2) "Toward early prognostic biomarkers in the ALS-FTD spectrum"

Together with Caroline Ingre and Sebastian Lewandowski at KI, we aim to integrate FDG-PET imaging and fluid (CSF and plasma) biomarkers of metabolic, vascular and neuroinflammatory changes in patients on the ALS-FTD spectrum. The aim of this project is to develop objective biomarker tools that may help clinicians to improve prognosis of speed of disease progression in patients, which will help determine their optimum patient management and treatment options. 

 

3) "Clinical utility of FDG PET imaging in memory clinic patients with uncertain diagnosis"

- Clinical utility of FDG PET imaging in memory clinic patients with uncertain diagnosis, Giulia Perini, MD, University of Pavia, Italy; Agneta Nordberg, KI, Laetitia Lemoine, KI

 

4) "Untangling heterogeneous pathways to Alzheimer's disease by investigating discordance between amyloid CSF and PET imaging biomarkers"

A. Sala, A. Nordberg, E. Rodriguez-Vieitez. "Longitudinal Longitudinal pathways of cerebrospinal fluid and positron emission tomography biomarkers of amyloid-β positivity", Molecular Psychiatry 2020, Dec 11; JIF 12.38

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-020-00950-w

In this study we identifed two alternative pathological pathways leading to Alzheimer's disease. Using a large longitudinal dataset of amyloid protein accumulation as measured by brain images and biochemical samples from the cerebrospinal fluid, we showed that Alzheimer’s-related amyloid pathology can be detected first in the brain in some individuals, or first in the cerebrospinal fluid in other individuals, adding to evidence that Alzheimer's is a heterogeneous disease. These results have biological and clinical implications. 

This research is as part of the EU-funded AMYPAD project, "Amyloid imaging to prevent Alzheimer's disease", https://amypad.eu (KI principal investigator: Agneta Nordberg)

 

Methods

Besides image processing and quantification, I have a strong focus on novel statistical approaches to unravel the associations between brain morphology, underlying molecular biology changes in the central nervous system and the periphery, and cognition.

Overall, I have co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed publications in international journals. I have co-supervised two PhD students and mentored several master and undergraduate students, collaborate with clinicians, and currently co-supervise PhD student Mona-Lisa Malarte, KI.

Through my ongoing projects, I plan to strengthen my collaboration with other national and international research institutions and hospitals, and to focus on research with high potential for patient benefit. 

 

Teaching portfolio

Course leader in PhD course "Translational Molecular Brain Imaging in Neurodegenerative Disorders" (Spring 2020 and Spring 2021), Neuroscience Programme, Karolinska Institutet

Teaching lectures on PET imaging in neurodegenerative disorders at various courses:

- KI Master in Biomedicine (course leader Louisa Cheung), since 2017

- Stockholm University "Specialist Course in Clinical Neuropsychology: Theory and Method” (course leader Maria Lindau), since 2017

- KI Advanced Course in Alzheimer’s disease & other dementias, since 2016

- KI PhD course "Application of molecular biology and molecular brain imaging techniques in neurodegenerative disorders", 2013, 2016 (course leader Taher Darreh-Shori)

 

Education

PhD Nuclear Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, USA (2007)

MS Civil Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA (1998)

BS Physics, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain (1994)

 

 

Academic honours, awards and prizes

2020 Global Mentorship Award, from the EMCC Global Mentor and Coaching Association https://www.emccglobal.org/about_emcc/awards/

Award for excellence in teaching, University of California at Berkeley: 2006-2007 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley

2013-2014 Wenner-Gren Postdoctoral Fellowship for postdoctoral research at Karolinska Institutet,

2014 Fundación Barrié de la Maza, award to professional research trajectory, 26 December

2013 Young Investigator Award, Human Amyloid Imaging Conference, Miami (USA)

2008-2009 Postdoctoral Fellowship Grant, Harvard University

2007-2008 Postdoctoral Fellowship Grant, Stanford University

2007 Postdoctoral Fellowship Fundación Caja Madrid

 

Research grants

2021 Research grant from Demensfonden; KI Fonder

2019-2020 Alzheimerfonden; Demensfonden; Stohnes; Erik and Edith Fernström Foundation for Medical Research, KI Foundations; Olle Engkvist Foundation 

Nov. 2019 - present: Non-employee research affiliate, Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School. External consultant on NIH R21 grant (PI: Patrizia Vannini, Harvard Aging Brain Study)

2012-2018 Research grants from Alzheimerfonden; Åke Wiberg Stiftelsen; Stiftelsen för ålderssjukdomar, Karolinska Institutet; KI Fonder; Gun och Bertil Stohnes Stiftelsen; Ahlén Stiftelsen; Stiftelsen för gamla tjänarinnor; Demensfonden; Loo och Hans Ostermans Stiftelsen

 

Conference organizer

Sub-Chair for Neuroinflammation, 16th European Molecular Imaging Meeting (EMIM 2021), 24-27 August 2021, https://e-smi.eu/meetings/emim/emim-2021/

Member of Program Committee, SPIE 2021, Emerging Topics in Artificial Intelligence, 1-5 August 2021, virtual conference, https://spie.org/OP21N/conferencedetails/emerging-topics-in-ai

Symposium organizer at Brain and BrainPET 2022 international conference, 28 May - 1 June 2022, https://brain2022.scot

 

Board membership, Karolinska Institutet

May 2020 - present: Member of NVS Departmental Board, representative of Forskare

April 2016 - April 2018: Member of Steering Committee, KI Junior Faculty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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