TRACK-ALS: Imaging and Biofluid Biomarkers in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Research Summary

Principle Investigators: Nazem Atassi MD, Joseph Masdeu MD, PHD & A. Nadeem Ishaque PhD

This is a very exciting collaborative project among industry, academia and the ALS Association (ALSA). The overall goal of this project is to identify new imaging markers of ALS that can be used to accelerate ALS diagnostic timelines and the pace of ALS drug development.

We plan to compare innovative MRI signals between 50 people with ALS and 50 healthy volunteers, and to study these MRI signals over time in relationship with ALS clinical presentation, disease progression, and comprehensive biomarker profilings including DNA, IPSC lines and inflammatory blood-based markers. A subset of these participants will also undergo positron emission tomography (PET) that will show us the location and degree of brain inflammation in people with ALS, using GE’s new GE-180 ligand. The study leverages GE Healthcare work in TBI and brings their expertise to study ALS.

Impact of Study

At the end of this project, we will identify novel imaging and inflammatory signatures of ALS as potential tools for early diagnosis and provide a quick readout of drug efficacy in people with ALS.

The “Avatar” project:  

In this project we will collect blood samples from 100 ALS and control patients that have had extensive clinical histories taken and imaging with novel GE ligands (from the imaging study described above).  These blood samples will be “reprogrammed” back in time to a “super cell” state.  These cells will then be made into the motor neurons that die in ALS. We will analyze these motor neurons in detail and relate any changes back to the patient history.   In this way we have created an “Avatar” of the patients’ motor neurons in a dish that we can examine to learn more about ALS, and treat with drugs to see if we can reverse any degenerative changes.  This is truly personalized medicine!


A. Nadeem Ishaque PhD
Vladimir Reiser PHD
Luca Marinelli PhD
Merit Cudkowicz MD
Nazem Atassi MD
Stanley Appel MD
Joseph Masdeu MD, PHD
Clive Svendsen PhD