After over a year in the making, the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge came to its culmination at the finale event during the ALS/MND International Alliance Meeting in Dublin. All five finalist teams came together to show off their prototypes to our esteemed judging team. The meeting participants living with ALS also had a chance to try out each new technology. Every finalist had an innovative idea – from brain computer interface technology to voice message banking – to help people living with ALS communicate with ease. This is extremely important to their quality of life and why the Challenge was started in the first place. Here is a photo summary of this exciting event, ending with the winners.
In 2016, a significant number of ALS research discoveries, advances in clinical trials, collaborations and strategic initiatives all accelerated the pace of discovery in finding treatments and a cure for ALS.
We’ve pulled together what we think are 10 of 2016’s biggest advances in ALS research that gave us, and people living with ALS, hope this year!
After over a year in the making, The ALS Association in partnership with Prize4Life awarded the ALS Assistive Technology prize in Dublin during the ALS/MND International Alliance Meeting. We are thrilled to award one of the top prizes to Dexter Ang and David Cipoletta, two young entrepreneurs that founded Pison Technology based out of Massachusetts. They blew the judges away with their easy-to-use, self-contained communication system based on muscle EMG signals. People living with ALS are able to learn and use the system to communicate in minutes. We observed first hand as participants were thrilled with its comfort and usability while testing out their technology. We sat down with CEO Dexter Ang and CTO David Cipoletta to learn more about their company and their exciting new technology.
You may have heard that IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, competed on Jeopardy! and is now being used to solve everything from business problems to diagnosing cancer. Today, we were thrilled to hear the latest Watson news: Working with a team at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, headed by Dr. Robert Bowser, Watson helped researchers discover 5 new ALS genes. The Barrow researchers are excited about Watson’s future potential for further neuroscience work, and so are we!
Watch IBM’s new video below, and read more about the announcement here.
By Mel Reichman, Ph.D.
Certain genetic changes in super oxide dismutase-1 (SOD1), the second most common form of inherited ALS, cause this protein composed of two parts (a dimer) to fall apart into individual pieces (monomers). These SOD1 monomers can abnormally clump together in motor neurons during ALS disease. Join me at The ALS Association December webinar to learn about my research to develop new ways to discover novel ALS drugs that stabilize SOD1 dimers. This includes a high-throughput screening technique, which could reveal unexpected, safe combinations of FDA-approved drugs to treat ALS.
Over 30,300 neuroscientists from around the world gathered in San Diego in November for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), the largest annual meeting of scientists in the world. ALS was strongly represented at the meeting, with the presentation of approximately two hundred new research studies on genes, models, disease mechanisms and therapy development. These included many supported by The ALS Association under our TREAT ALSTM global research program that I highlight below.
The ALS Association, in partnership with ALS Finding a Cure and the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) is giving $1 million in total funding to support a new ALS clinical trial to test the efficacy of the experimental drug RNS60 in reducing inflammation that may slow the disease process. The Association is contributing $500,000 out of the total award. The trial is currently being setup and is slated to begin in the New Year. The study will be led by Drs. Ettore Beghi, at the IRCCS Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, Letizia Mazzini, at the University Hospital of Novara in Novar, Italy and Sabrina Paganoni, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Your research donations make a difference! ALS Association funded Dr. Mervyn Monteiro, Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, developed novel ALS mouse models expressing mutant ubiquilin 2 (UBQLN2), a cause of inherited ALS-FTD that was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Importantly, these mouse models demonstrate many characteristics of ALS observed in humans, thereby providing valuable tools for identifying disease pathways in ALS and for investigating therapeutic strategies to treat ALS.
Dr. Aaron Gitler and his colleagues recently published a paper in the August 12th issue of Science uncovering a potential new therapeutic target aimed at C9orf72 ALS, supported by The ALS Association. He found that inhibiting just one protein, called Spt4, significantly reduced toxicity caused by the C9orf72 repeat expansion. Learn more about how he used a simple model, yeast, to make this discovery and its therapeutic potential to treat ALS. And join us on November 7th to hear from Dr. Gitler during The ALS Association research webinar series (see details below).
The ALS Association Research Department is pleased to show their research dollars in action. Two new papers that were recently published in high impact scientific journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Cell were supported by The ALS Association. The first paper by Drs. Zuoshang Xu and John Landers from University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., demonstrates a novel profilin 1 (PFN1) mouse model that displays disease characteristics similar to human disease. This paper underscores the importance of developing novel animal models to understand ALS disease processes and to discover new therapeutic targets. The second paper by Dr. J. Paul Taylor and colleagues from St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. reveals a new disease mechanism involving the C9ORF72 expansion mutation that will be targeted for ALS therapy.