Affiliation(s): McGill University
Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology/Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering, McGill University
Dr. David Rudko is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurology/Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering at McGill University where he conducts MRI research at the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC) of the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI). He is also Director of the Pre-Clinical 7 T MRI Program at the BIC. His research is situated at the interface of basic tissue biology and imaging of whole organ systems. He applies advanced magnetic resonance imaging techniques in conjunction with biophysical modeling and signal processing methods to more thoroughly understand microscopic features of brain tissue that are altered during neurological disease.
The overall focus of his doctoral research was the application of novel imaging methodology in conjunction with biophysical modeling to augment the current understanding of brain anatomy and physiology. His research used healthy controls, as well as populations having neurological disease (human multiple sclerosis and an animal model of glioblastoma multiforme). Dr. Rudko specifically developed improved biophysical models and imaging methods for the characterization of myelin/axonal microstructure in the brain. His subsequent postdoctoral research was funded by a three-year fellowship from the MS Society of Canada and the CIHR Neuroinflammation Training Program of the McGill University Health Sciences Centre. It focused on the development of a method to detect and quantify the full extent of tissue damage in the cortex of relapsing-remitting and secondary-progressive MS patients. It used a standard, clinically available 3 T MRI system with myelin-sensitive magnetization transfer imaging. Our findings link measurements of cortical myelin content with the clinical disability of people with MS.
His next step, currently underway, is to validate the aforementioned 3 T MRI results using ultra-high field, 7 T MRI scans capable of directly visualizing cortical lesions. As well, in his current MS imaging research he is seeking to elucidate the spatial relationship of leptomeningeal and leukocortical inflammation to both abnormal cortical surface myelination and structurally-identified focal cortical lesions. An additional corollary of this work is to provide a clearer understanding of the relationship between cortical sub-pial demyelination and a novel, global cognitive-impairment score for MS.
Have you engaged with members of the public, specifically people who are affected by MS? If so, please explain?
During my PhD, I made a point of interacting on a personal level while imaging over 200 people affected by MS. The significance of direct personal interaction and emotional support became deeply meaningful when, for a three year period, I facilitated two highly rewarding MS support groups - one for patients, the other for caregivers. My interest in the personal side of MS continues to this day.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
During my doctoral studies in Medical Physics at the University of Western Ontario, I became deeply interested in the potential of novel MRI methods for understanding the subtle microstructural changes which occur in the early stages of MS. Discussions with physicians, scientists and people living with MS reinforced the need for increased use of quantitative MRI methods to better detect and quantify factors related to the onset and progression of MS, as well as to determine the effectiveness of new MS therapies.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
Lab research provides a unique opportunity to explore ideas at the frontier of science. Advancing knowledge of MS pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment is both stimulating and rewarding, especially when research discoveries translate directly into improved patient care. Increasingly, however, obtaining adequate research funding in today’s turbulent economic times remains a critical challenge.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
Support from the MS Society of Canada is crucial in enabling our lab to pursue research that has the potential to directly improve the lives of people living with MS. It allows us to optimize both our 3T and 7T MR imaging protocols, to enhance the research team assembled for our cortical lesion detection project and to more expeditiously quantify the link between our findings of previously undetected pathology and both clinical outcome measures and cognition in MS. My lab members and I greatly value the MS Society's provisions for research funding and training opportunities.