Dr. Isabelle Lajoie (Dadar Lab) obtains a postdoctoral career award from the ALS Society of Canada and Brain Canada

November 10, 2023
We are pleased to share that the ALS Society of Canada has just announced that Dr. Isabelle Lajoie, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Mahsa Dadar’s group, has obtained a $78,000 postdoctoral award to pursue her research around the question, “can a combination of advanced brain imaging and artificial intelligence uncover a biomarker to better track disease progression?”

World Science Day reminds us of the impact science has in all our lives

In recognition of the importance of investing in scientific discoveries, the announcement of the ALS Canada-Brain Canada Trainee Award recipients was made to coincide World Science Day. These early career grants are designed to support the training and research of clinicians in clinical care and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows engaged in research related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) across Canada, and represent a total investment of $303,000 in 2023.

“Our commitment to invest in clinicians and researchers early in their careers through the Clinical Research Fellowship and Trainee Award programs ensures that we have top medical and scientific talent working hard to find treatments for people living with ALS,” said Dr. David Taylor, Vice-President of Research and Strategic Partnerships, ALS Canada. “These are critical parts of our national Research Program that drive optimal care and discovery toward our vision of a future without ALS.”

Investigating disease progression and survival outcomes in ALS patients using deep learning and deformation based morphometry

Previous imaging studies have uncovered changes in certain brain regions of people living with ALS. The extent and location of these changes, however, can differ significantly from person to person. This has led researchers to question whether the variability in brain atrophy patterns is linked to the diversity in symptoms often observed in people with ALS, such as age of onset, disease duration, cognitive changes, and more. If such a link exists, measuring these brain changes could provide a non-invasive way for health care professionals to monitor disease progression more accurately and possibly even predict future clinical symptoms and survival outcomes.

Deformation-based morphometry (DBM) is a sensitive method for quantifying changes in various brain regions using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). With this award, Dr. Lajoie will take advantage of comprehensive data sets already collected through national initiatives such as the Canadian ALS Neuroimaging Consortium (CALSNIC) and the Comprehensive Analysis Platform To Understand, Remedy, and Eliminate ALS (CAPTURE ALS) to investigate the relationship between DMB measurements and clinical symptoms. With the help of artificial intelligence, she hopes to uncover complex patterns in the data that otherwise may have remained undetectable and explore whether DBM has potential in predicting the course of the disease.

Through this work, Dr. Lajoie seeks to identify a much-needed non-invasive biomarker for ALS, which could change how healthcare professionals monitor and track the disease. The information gained will deepen our understanding of the mechanisms underlying disease progression, clinical symptoms, and survival, ultimately advancing our ability to effectively manage the disease.

Congratulations Dr. Lajoie!