A new way to measure how the brain uses ketones as fuel in Alzheimer’s disease

Lydia LePage, MChem, PhD University of California, San Francisco


Myriam Chaumeil, PhD
Ken Nakamura, PhD


The ketogenic diet is thought to provide an alternative fuel for the struggling brain in Alzheimer’s disease – but is this fuel actually being used to make energy? Currently we have no way of knowing. We will develop a new way of imaging the brain to see if it is using the ketones as fuel and use the method to discover new insights into brain ketone metabolism in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

Project Details

The ketogenic diet is being revisited as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, potentially providing replacement brain fuel as sugar use declines through disease development - but we need better tools to fully characterize and understand the diet’s effects. I will be investigating a non-radioactive, patient-safe ketone imaging probe to allow us to see what happens to ketones in the brain. I'll also couple this with an existing probe of the glucose metabolism pathway, so we will get a more rounded picture of fuel use in the brain in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Once we have the tools to understand the effects of ketones on the brain, we have more power to find new avenues for drug research, or improve personalization of treatments. My work will be in mice, but this imaging strategy has been used in clinical studies of other diseases such as prostate cancer, and so there is a clear path to translation to patients with Alzheimer's disease.