Just six weeks ago, 800 scientists and healthcare professionals attended the International Symposium on ALS/MND.  This was an opportunity to share information about what is being discovered in all areas of research, from basic lab research to clinical trials.  

Dr. Terry Heiman-Patterson of Drexel University College of Medicine recently summarized these professional meetings in an hour long webinar presentation for patients and families through NEALS. She spoke of the 120 NEALS sites around the world and the 21 active studies going on at multiple locations within that network.  

“I’ve been working in the field of ALS for almost 30 years and when I started we didn’t have a single clinical trial or clinical study going on.  Now, there is just an explosion and I’m very hopeful that we will really make major progress,” Heiman-Patterson explains.   

ALS research focuses on three areas: finding the causes of ALS, finding ways to treat the day to day symptoms, and finding ways to cure or reverse ALS.  All three are important areas that can give meaningful results.  Each area must be studied simultaneously, as breakthroughs in one area can be connected to progress in the other areas.  ALS is such a complex disease that no single group can research every aspect.  Integrating the results from each study in each area is critical.  

At this time ALS treatment strategies generally fall into five main approaches:

  1. Anti-glutamate treatments
  2. Neuroprotectant treatments
  3. Anti-inflammatory treatments
  4. Anti-oxidant treatments
  5. DNA modulation treatments

There are many other innovative ideas, immunosuppressive treatments, diet, and exercise, that are also being tried that don’t fit into the above categories.  

“I bring this up because there is really so much more activity,” says Heiman-Patterson.  It is a hopeful time in ALS research.  “We really are working, those of us who study ALS, those of us who are committed to making a difference.”  
Educational Webinars through NEALS are held monthly for ALS patients and families and can be viewed here.

About the Author:

Seth Christensen
Seth is an ALS patient and founder of ALS Crowd, a division of the CrowdCare Foundation. As host of the ALS Crowd Radio show, he interviews top ALS researchers and focuses his efforts on the aggregation of big data to help researchers and patients find clues that will drive to a cure.
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