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Two New Awards Will Help Develop New Therapies for ALS

December 13, 2013

As part of its Translational Research Advancing Therapy (TREAT ALS™) program, The ALS Association is pleased to announce two new awards that will contribute to the development of new treatments for ALS.

The Association awarded $48,000 to Bjorn Oskarsson, M.D., Director of the ALS clinic at the University of California at Davis, to support a trial of the drug mexiletine for treatment of muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are a common problem in the disease, affecting more than three-quarters of people with ALS. The drug has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for arrhythmia and has been used in an open-label fashion for cramps in another neurodegenerative disease and in some people with ALS. With this funding, Dr. Oskarsson will study the safety and efficacy of mexiletine in a double-blind trial in 30 people with ALS.  This project is funded in part by The Association’s Greater Sacramento Chapter, who received generous support from Sundt.

“Reducing cramps is a clear, unmet need in the treatment of ALS,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for The Association. “This trial will provide us with the first objective test of whether this drug can offer some relief from this painful condition.”

The Association also awarded $140,000 to Rita Sattler, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and John Gerdes, Ph.D., of the University of Montana at Missoula to fund further development of a PET imaging marker for the glutamate transporter. The transporter helps reduce potentially toxic glutamate in the brain and spinal cord. A reduction in the transporter, and an increase in glutamate, are believed to contribute to the disease. The PET imaging marker has the ability to detect loss of transporters during the course of the disease and potentially a change in that loss in response to therapy. The newly funded studies will test the safety of the marker in animals, in preparation for use in humans.

“The ability to objectively track disease progress, and to determine the cellular effects of therapies, is critical for rapid development of new treatments for ALS,” Dr. Bruijn said. “We have supported the development of this imaging marker from early on, and we are excited to see it move closer to the clinic through this important test of its safety.”

Through its TREAT ALS™ program, The Association funds a diverse portfolio of research to find treatments and a cure for ALS.

Read the press release.

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