As many as 20,000 Americans live with ALS, and 15 new cases are diagnosed in this country every day. A new HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology project is just underway in collaboration with Crestwood ALS Care Clinic, a National ALS Association Treatment Center of Excellence in Huntsville.
In this project, HudsonAlpha scientists will conduct genomic sequencing and analysis of ALS patients to better understand the underlying cause of the disease. The project is funded through donations made to Impacting ALS, which is part of the HudsonAlpha Foundation’s Memory and Mobility Program.
ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Michelle Amaral, Ph.D., a senior scientist in the HudsonAlpha Myers Lab, is leading the project.
“Through genomic sequencing and analysis, we hope to identify genetic variants that contribute to ALS,” said Amaral. “We want to understand the mechanisms that cause the disease as well as the differences between sporadic and familial ALS. The ultimate goal is to discover biological targets that may be useful for the development of new treatments and therapeutics.”
Sherry Kolodziejczak, an occupational therapist and director of the Crestwood ALS Care Clinic/Cardiac Rehab/Therapy Services/Workers Program, said patients treated at the clinic report a higher quality of life and longer life expectancy.
“Our clinic manages each ALS patient case throughout the course of the illness. We have to prevent the crisis before they come, not when they get here, and that’s how we can prolong life and give good quality of life,” she said.
Led by co-medical directors David White, M.D., and Aruna Arora, M.D. (both neurologists), the Crestwood ALS Care Clinic is the only ALS Association Treatment Center of Excellence in Alabama. The Crestwood ALS Care Clinic is also a Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) site. The mission of NEALS is to rapidly translate scientific advances into clinical research and new treatments for people with ALS and motor neuron disease.
ALS patient Bryan Stone of Sylacauga, a NEALS ambassador for the Crestwood ALS Care Clinic, is happy to see that research is happening in Huntsville.
“It’s exciting to see the testing and the collaboration done here at home and that we can take part in it,” said Stone. “ALS has forced me into retirement and there are a lot of activities that I’m not able to do, but then again, it’s opened up other avenues for me to work with the ALS community and help others.”
“Crestwood ALS Clinic physicians and staff really go above and beyond to take care of patients,” said Pam Hudson, M.D., CEO of Crestwood Medical Center. “This hopefully will get to the cause of the disease so we don’t have to solely focus on the treatment.”
“HudsonAlpha collaborates with institutions all over the world. It is especially exciting to be working on a project like this in Huntsville,” said Rick Myers, Ph.D., HudsonAlpha president and science director, “so we appreciate Crestwood’s support and look forward to making even more advances in ALS.”
Additional donations are being accepted and will be used to enroll more patients who are battling ALS. Donations to Impacting ALS can be made at hudsonalpha.org/donate or to the HudsonAlpha Foundation at 601 Genome Way NW, Huntsville, AL 35806.