$8 Million Award Will Help Researchers Develop Early Warning Systems for ALS, Other Disorders

$8 Million Award Will Help Researchers Develop Early Warning Systems for ALS, Other Disorders

Scientist Manish Arora, PhD, received an $8 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to develop models to predict and possibly prevent diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Arora and his team developed the Biodynamic Interface, which proposes an interplay between the environment and the body in a field of research called exposomics. This theory will be combined with newly developed technology in the project “Early Warning Systems for Childhood and Adult Disorders,” aimed at preventing diseases that result from both environmental and genetic risk factors. Besides ALS, this includes autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia.

The award is supported by NIEHS’ “Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental health Research” (RIVER) program, which recognizes outstanding environmental health researchers by offering up to $750,000 per year over eight years.

“I am grateful to the [NIEHS] for this award,” Arora, a professor and vice chair of the department of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a press release. “Understanding the environmental factors in autism, schizophrenia, and ALS could identify specific pathways related to the diseases’ pathology and could lead to an early warning system for these and other neurodevelopmental disorders.”

“The earlier these diseases are diagnosed or predicted, the earlier people can take advantage of therapies,” Arora added.

Arora has been working to find biomarkers that use human baby and permanent teeth to better understand the timing of exposure to harmful chemicals and essential nutrients, as well as the body’s response to such environmental factors. This work has focused on prenatal and early-life exposure in children with neurological disorders to assess the effects on health, disease, and development.

The researcher is a member of the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research. Exposomics uses a large-scale approach to assess all the exposures of individuals throughout their lifetime and how that affects health outcomes.

RIVER announced five other awards in the field of environmental health sciences. In its second year, the program is part of an ongoing effort to “support people, not projects,” and fund independent investigators’ research programs instead of the typical NIEHS support of research projects.

“This program is designed to give researchers intellectual and administrative freedom, as well as sustained support for up to eight years, to push their research in new and important directions,” said Jennifer Collins, the program coordinator. She added that RIVER seeks to fund investigators who have shown “a broad vision and exhibited the potential for continuing their impactful research through a research award that emphasizes scientific flexibility and stability.”

One comment

  1. Sylvia Grosso says:

    Hello, this sounds highly promising, although too late for my two sons. My son Robert developped schizophrenia and committed suicide aged 21 years. Nobody took any notice of the signs that I myself worried about, even when he was a small child. He had abrupt, strange behaviors every now and then. His father would get angry with him. I was fully against his taking a year off in Europe when he finished secondary school, it was evident by then that something was very wrong. His school had also called me in for a chat. I certainly believe that some of these neurological diseases begin in childhood.
    So, after that tragic event, my youngest son also decided to study in Spain. At the age of about 23 years, he was diagnozed with ALS. He died aged 29 years, at home in Buenos Aires, in his own bed and, fortunately, peacefully. His heart simply stopped beating, after several days of taquichardia, which the cardiologist said was normal…
    Patrick, my son with ALS, was born more than 3 weeks after his due date. I had been to the hospital three times after having spent the night with horrible contractions, but they disappeared during the day. The doctors said I had mistaken my dates. I had not. Patrick’s skin looked all burned when he was born, the pediatricean said that one more day in the womb, he would have died. He was under observation for several days and we spent Christmas in hospital. Many years later, I asked a specialist whether certain neurons could be affected when the baby is post-mature. He said that yes, and that even though new neurons are being made in the brain for many years, in his opinion some severe damage could have ocurred when he was too long in the womb. This issue has never been taken up by any studies that I know of. And I don’t think there are many ALS patients that were post-mature. Still, it appears these issues will now be addressed. Hopefully, new treatments will come about. That makes me very optimistic for the many young lives that are cut short due to ALS and schizophrenia. Thank you.

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