Research Summary

The goal of this project is to measure spinal cord inflammation using [11C]PBR28-PET in 10 people with ALS compared to 5 healthy volunteers. Positron emission tomography (PET) is a technology that allows accurate measurement of certain proteins or metabolites in living people. We are using a PET tracer (contrast) called PBR28 that binds to active inflammatory cells and allows us to measure and localize brain inflammation. We were able to demonstrate increased inflammation in the areas that control voluntary muscle movements (e.g., motor cortex) in people with ALS. Zucher N, Lawson R, Loggia M, Chonde DB, Izquierdo D, Akeju O, Catana C, Rosen B, Cudkowicz ME, Hooker J, Atassi N. Microglial Activation in Individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Neuroimage Clin 2015 (PMC 25685708)

Impact of Study

The SPINE ALS project will build on our previous findings in the brain and demonstrate feasibility and relevance of imaging spinal cord inflammation as a molecular biomarker of lower motor neuron degeneration in people with ALS. A positive signal in this pilot study will provide the needed data to scale up and conduct a larger multi-center study in collaboration with General Electric (GE) using GE-180. This would nicely dovetail the ongoing TRACK ALS project and leverage the exciting collaboration between these sites and GE.


Massachusetts General Hospital
Nazem Atassi MD