Currently there is no test for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Whereas, many other disorders are diagnosed with by a simple blood test, x-ray or CT, the diagnosis of ALS is made in large part by ruling out other diseases that can mimic it. It is not uncommon that a patient has waited over a year for the diagnosis to be secured. Without a test that can objectively measure how much a patient with ALS is affected also delays the testing and discovery of new drugs.
The objective of our research program is to improve our understanding of changes in the brain in ALS. We have previously characterized degeneration of motor and non-motor cerebral regions in ALS using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, including magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion tensor imaging, functional MRI, and texture analysis. These methods show promise in providing a biomarker, namely a test that can quantify cerebral degeneration to detect disease earlier, monitor progression, and evaluate new therapies. Such a tool would accelerate drug testing and lead to the realization of effective treatment faster, as currently there is no such test in ALS.
The Canadian ALS Neuroimaging Consortium (CALSNIC) was formed to create and evaluate new tests for ALS that use advanced MRI. CALSNIC has 7 participating sites in Canada, and has recently branched internationally to include 2 sites in the US.
There have been a number of publications and presentations arising from CALSNIC. Most recently, Dr. Kalra and his team updated the international community at the ALSMND Symposium in Glasgow last December, at the ALS Canada Research Forum in Toronto in April, and at the American Academy of Neurology in May.
CALSNIC receives the bulk of its funding from a Hudson Team Grant from ALS Canada (in partnership with Brain Canada). This was the largest grant awarded by ALS Canada, with funds raised by the ice bucket challenge across the country. The study continues for another 2 years. The CALSNIC team thanks patients, their caregivers, and friends and family who have given so generously of their time to be participants in the study.
For more information about our study, please visit calsnic.org.