Validated biomarkers for ALS are urgently needed to help researchers develop a path to unique treatments for each person living with ALS. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has emerged as a promising source of non-invasive biomarkers for ALS. Abdullah Ishaque, working with his PhD supervisor Dr. Sanjay Kalra, has recently developed two imaging biomarkers called texture analysis (TA) and quantitative T2 (qT2) mapping. TA measures subtle patterns and relationships in brain images and qT2 allows researchers to evaluate degeneration in the brain by analyzing water content, iron content, demyelination (damage to the outer protective covering of motor neurons) and inflammation.
In this project, Ishaque will investigate whether these two imaging biomarkers can monitor degeneration in the brain, upper motor neuron dysfunction and disease progression associated with ALS in people living with the disease. To validate his findings, he will also perform MRI scans on post-mortem tissue samples donated generously from people who had ALS and compare results with other measures of disease progression in the samples including neuron loss, changes to glial cells and demyelination. For his work, Ishaque will be using brain MRI images obtained from the Canadian ALS Neuroimaging Consortium (CALSNIC).