Who We Are
Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte

Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte

Dean, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University (FIU)

Imaging Neuroinflammation with TSPO: From Rodents to Humans

Translocator Protein 18 kDa (TSPO) is a glia (microglia and astrocytes) stress response protein that has been rigorously validated as a biomarker of neuroinflammation to assess diverse central nervous system pathologies in preclinical and clinical studies. Today, neuroinflammation in the living brain can be visualized and studied using TSPO-Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging. TSPO is an early biomarker of neuroinflammation that can be used to track disease progression and to assess the effectiveness of therapeutic strategies. As a result of these characteristics, TSPO-PET is used clinically in major research centers around the world to assess neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative, neurological, and mental disorders and to examine the neurotoxic potential of environmental toxins. The recent expansion of this approach has also been recognized in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other human conditions that comprise an inflammatory response. Furthermore, TSPO is a druggable target with therapeutic implications in mitigating neuroinflammation.


Tomás R. Guilarte PhD, joined FIU in 2016 after serving as the Inaugural Leon Hess Professor and Chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in the City of New York. Prior to Columbia University, he received his doctorate and spent many years as professor and researcher in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Guilarte has received many awards as a scientist and academician. He was inducted into the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars in 2018. In the same year, he received the 2018 Society of Toxicology Hispanic Organization of Toxicologists (HOT) Distinguished Toxicologist Award. In 2019, he was selected by NBC News as Top 20 Latino Making a Difference in the United States. He was inducted into the Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine of Florida in 2020 and received the 2020 Society of Toxicology Metals Specialty Section Career Achievement Award. In March of 2022, he received the Society of Toxicology Translational Impact Award. This award recognizes a scientist whose recent outstanding clinical, environmental health, or translational research has improved human and/or public health in an area of toxicological concern within the last 10 years.

Dr. Guilarte’s research explores the impact of environmental pollutants on neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. His work uses behavioral, cellular, and molecular approaches, ranging from studies using primary culture of brain cells to the application of brain imaging technologies. He has made seminal discoveries in the molecular and cellular mechanism(s) of heavy metal-induced neurological dysfunction. His laboratory was a pioneer in the validation and application of a biomarker of brain injury and neuroinflammation that is currently being used to study neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging in clinical research centers in the US and throughout the world.