The ALS Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) recently teamed up to fund a research project whose goal is to find a therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The nonprofit associations are both committed to funding and fostering treatments and an eventual cure for ALS, and to provide care to those affected with this fatal and debilitating disease.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks neurons in the brain and in the spinal cord. Patients suffering with this disease lose the ability to control their muscles and become paralyzed. Most patients die within 2 or 5 years after diagnosis.
Thanks to the Major League Baseball and to the viral ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” $240,000 in ALS funding was awarded to James Shorter, Ph.D., a molecular biologist of Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Shorter’s research was focused on breaking up the toxic protein clumps that exist in the nerve cells of the patients with ALS. Shorter’s goal is to understand protein clumping and to determine if the understanding that phenomena will bring researchers closer to a potential treatment or cure.
While Muscular Dystrophy and ALS are two distinct diseases, they are both neurodegenerative, and lead to similar patient outcomes. They are also the focus of intensive research and drug development to improve symptoms and lifespan. In addition to the work that the MDA does in fighting Muscular Dystrophy, it also has one of the most robust ALS advocacy campaigns in the world as well. According to the MDA, their organization has sponsored more ALS research than any other nonprofit health organization in the world. 44 ALS centers are included in their nationwide network, and in 2013, they committed more than $7.8 million to services designed to help relieve the day-to-day challenges faced by our ALS families.
Valerie Cwik, M.D, MDA Executive Vice President, said in a press release: “We’re proud to partner with The ALS Association in support of this innovative research, which could provide critical understanding and new therapeutic possibilities to help those fighting ALS. As part of our mission to save and improve lives of those with neuromuscular diseases, we’ve maintained a major focus on funding ALS research and services since the 1950s. We’re determined to strengthen that crucial commitment as we join forces with The ALS Association, working together to accelerate research progress to arrive at definitive therapeutic solutions to benefit those with ALS, their families and caregivers.”
The chief scientist Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., M.B.A., from the ALS Association added: “We are pleased to work with MDA to fund these studies, which will provide greater insight into the disease process and also offer possible new therapies for ALS.”