Last year the Ice Bucket Challenge made headlines across America when the Barrow Neurological Institute raised more than $500,000 through the international fundraising and advocacy initiative. Now, the organization is reporting that the funds accumulated will be used to support a new and potentially groundbreaking amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) study to determine why ALS patients progress differently throughout the different stages of the disease.
ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects neurons and the spinal cord. The disease causes muscle atrophy due to the progressive degeneration of motor neurons, with patients eventually losing the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. So far, there is no cure for ALS and treatment options are minimal. Nevertheless, more than 12,000 people in the U.S. alone (a prevalence of 3.9 cases per 100,000 people) have a definitive ALS diagnosis, according to data from the National ALS Registry.
With this new research project, investigators at the Fulton ALS Center at Barrow will closely monitor up to 200 patients for the disease for a period of two years in hopes that the study will reveal the genetics and biological mechanisms behind each patient’s disease progression. “Our goal in this study is to better understand how various mechanisms contribute to ALS and to determine why patients progress differently through the disease,” explained Dr. Robert Bowser, Director of the Gregory W. Fulton ALS Research Center “We hope that the findings from this study will help us identify better targeted treatment options and therapies for patients.”
Barrow’s ALS Center is on the frontline of innovative funding strategies and has become a national leader in ALS research and treatment. The center employs researchers like Dr. Browser and Dr. Jeremy Shefner, both recipients of the Sheila Essey Award in 2015 and 2014, respectively, a distinction given by the American Academy of Neurology and the ALS Association to recognize the excellency of individuals involved in ALS research.