PET biomarker for brain inflammation could be breakthrough in ALS research

It is estimated that nearly 30,000 people in the United States currently suffer from the progressive neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which affects motor neurons in the brain resulting in progressive loss of muscle control and other symptoms that eventually lead to paralysis and often death.

But a potential PET biomarker that has been shown to successfully record inflammation in the brains of patients with ALS could help improve early diagnosis and treatment of the disease, according to results of a study recently published in the journal NeuroImage: Clinical.

The study, conducted at The Neurological Clinical Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, used a radiotracer designed to bind to glial cells, which provide neurons with structural and metabolic support, to act as surrogate markers of brain inflammation.

“Inflammation is an important target for ALS drug development, and we believe imaging inflammation may allow us to design and conduct efficient ALS clinical trials and will accelerate the pace of ALS drug discovery,” said MGH researcher Nazem Atassi, MD, in a press release.

The research is part of the TRACK ALS project, a comprehensive ALS biomarker study researching whole genome sequencing, imaging, biofluid inflammatory biomarkers and pluripotent stem cell generation associated with ALS, for which there is no known cure.

Read the full study.