Penn State Professor Awarded $240,000 Grant by ALS Society for Nutrition-Based Solution

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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One of the country’s most accomplished professors of neurosurgery, neural and behavioral sciences and pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, James Connor, has just received a three-year grant worth $240,000 from the ALS Society to support his work on a nutrition-based solution that can be given via pain-medication delivery and has the potential to extend ALS patients’ survival.

“Inflammation is increased in ALS, particularly in cells called microglia,” Connor said. “These cells release substances that are harmful to neurons and cause neuronal death. In a study in humans, we found that an increase in certain anti-inflammatory proteins is associated with ALS progressing slowly. Based on this knowledge, the overall theme of our proposal is to limit microglia from secreting toxic factors and to support neuronal survival.”

Connor’s newly-funded research makes use of the following natural ingredients that are already found in the human body and serve as neuroprotective components by:

  • Boosting blood levels of anti-inflammatory proteins in the central nervous system.
  • Limiting the amount of iron in the central nervous system, as it can harm cells and drive inflammation, so a protein called H-ferritin, which searches for excess iron, will be used.
  • Providing nourishment to neurons by upregulating glucose concentration in the central nervous system. Because neuronal metabolism is altered in ALS, recent evidence suggests that increasing glucose availability may be beneficial.

“At the end of these studies, our aspiration is to have a therapeutic formulation that can be delivered to ALS patients to increase disease-free lifespan,” Connor said. “Successful studies should quickly lead to clinical trials.”

The current study will be done in mice models of the disease. After the solution is optimized, it can move into clinical trials.

Last year a monumental push to increase research funding for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, raised over $220 million globally for ALS research and patient care.  The video based social media challenge is set to return this year beginning July 31st.

Co-founder Pat Quinn stated in the announcement for this years’ upcoming challenge, “Last year gave the ALS community hope for the first time in a long time. But we still need the public’s help to keep the momentum going. We plan to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge again this August and every August until we find a cure.”