ANF News Express

AANEM Foundation News Express

Dr. Suma Babu Receives ANF Development Grant for Research on Spinal Cord Neuroinflammation in ALS Patients

Suma Babu, MBBS, MPH, has been selected as the recipient of an ANF development grant. Dr. Babu, who is an Instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School and faculty in the Neuromuscular division of Massachusetts General Hospital, will be using this funding to study the role of inflammation in the spinal cords of people living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting more than 15,000 Americans annually. 

In her research study, Dr. Babu will be using state-of-the-art imaging techniques – simultaneously acquired Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans of the spinal cord to evaluate neuroinflammation, all without surgery. The PET dye to be used in the study – PBR28 – is specific for activated glia and quantifies inflammation of the central nervous system. Dr. Babu’s research builds on promising preliminary spinal cord PBR28-PET data obtained in ALS subjects showing glial activation in people living with ALS compared to healthy volunteers and seeks to characterize the clinical and biological relevance of this molecular imaging outcome.

“This is a very exciting study which will provide useful insight into the characteristics and patterns of spinal cord PBR28-PET uptake and will quantify spinal cord glial activation in vivo in ALS. The ANF Development Award is a transformative early career opportunity for me, which will play a critical role in my career advancement in the field of ALS,” explained Dr. Babu. “The data generated by the study will inform the design of future longitudinal studies to understand how spinal cord inflammation impacts strength and function in ALS, and subsequently, clinical drug trials targeting neuroinflammation in ALS subjects with lower motor neuron dysfunction.” 

“This award from the ANF will help Suma create a niche of her own in ALS research focusing on neuroimaging of spinal cord as a potential objective biomarker and solidify her research skills in neuroimaging,” noted Anthony A. Amato, MD, Vice-Chairman of the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. “I envision her proposed study to be the first important step of many important future studies developing spinal cord imaging as a surrogate imaging biomarker in ALS.”

Dr. Babu’s research efforts as part of this grant began on April 1, 2018, and will continue through March 31, 2022. Dr. Babu will present the findings of this research at a future AANEM Annual Meeting.   

For More Information
Further information about ANF development grants is available on the foundation's website. To help fund future development grants and clinical research fellowships, please consider making a donation to the ANF. 


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