By Neil Thakur, Ph.D
Executive Vice President, Mission Strategy
The ALS Association
Diagnosing ALS is a lengthy and frustrating process for clinicians and families alike. This is due in large part to the absence of a specific biological indicator, which would signal the presence of the disease in people experiencing the onset of ALS symptoms. Unlike cancer and diabetes, which can be diagnosed and monitored through laboratory tests, ALS has no unique biological markers to confirm an ALS diagnosis.
With funds raised through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, The ALS Association has been able to invest significantly in the identification of biological indicators (or biomarkers) for ALS. You may already be familiar with biomarkers in other diseases, like blood sugar for diabetes or cholesterol for heart disease. Biomarkers can help us diagnose ALS more quickly and monitor disease progression precisely. With biomarkers, we can run faster and smaller clinical trials, because they can help us select participants more precisely and measure clinical changes more accurately.
One example of promising biomarker research being done today is happening at Dr. Tim Miller’s lab at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. With funding generated in part through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Dr. Miller and his team are looking to develop a unique imaging biomarker to track TDP-43, a protein associated with almost all cases of ALS. I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Miller, who can tell you, in his own words, about the push to find biomarkers that can help people with ALS find effective treatments sooner.
As Dr. Miller suggests, there is great optimism in the ALS research community. We have never been as close to solving the mysteries of ALS as we are today. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has brought us closer than ever to better understanding patterns of the disease, potential diagnostics, and treatment targets. But there is still work to be done. Will you help us finish what we started?
Challenge us to find a cure by participating in, advocating for, and donating generously to our work to create a world without ALS. Join a walk team, encourage your legislators to help us empower people living with ALS and help us invest in critical research.
The Challenge Me campaign picks up where the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge left off. This time, the ALS community is challenging everyone to do anything and everything they can to cure ALS. Click here to learn more.