Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a fatal and devastating disease of the nervous system that kills two to five Canadians every day. On September 25th and 26th, the Montreal Neurological Institute will host the 4th Annual ALS Symposium of the Fondation André-Delambre. Nearly one hundred researchers and clinicians from seven countries will come together to discuss recent progress in ALS research and treatment. Recent discoveries into the causes of ALS and new therapeutic avenues will be discussed.
Some of the experts at the conference include:
Jean-Pierre Julien, PhD - Université Laval. Dr. Julien is Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Faculty of Medicine at Laval University’s research centre, and researcher at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec (CRCHUQ). Dr. Julien is recognized as one of the most influential scientists in the field of neurofilament biology and the neurobiology of ALS. His efforts led to the first compelling demonstration that in transgenic mice, disorganization of intermediate filaments (IF) might play a causative role in motor neuron disease. Additional evidence for this view emerged from his discovery of variant neurofilament NF-H and peripherin alleles in a small number of ALS patients. Over the past decade, he has generated several lines of knockout mice that provided unique information regarding the functions of neuronal IF genes. Dr. Julien has also made important contributions to our understanding of ALS pathogenesis caused by mutations in superoxide dismutase (SOD1). Recently, he and his colleagues discovered that mutant SOD1 can be secreted through interaction with chromogranins and that extracellular SOD1 mutant can trigger inflammation and motor neuron death. He also reported the therapeutics effects of immunization with mutant SOD1 in mice models of ALS. Dr. Julien also reported that minocycline, was efficient in slowing down disease in ALS mice, studies that led to the establishment of minocycline trials with ALS patients. These findings open new therapeutic avenues for future treatment of ALS.
Guy Rouleau, MD, PhD - Université de Montréal. Dr. Rouleau is Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Université de Montréal. He is also Director of the Research Centre at Saint-Justine Hospital and for the Centre for Excellence in Neuromics of the Université de Montréal (CENUM). Over the past 18 years his work has focused on understanding the genetic basis for diseases of the brain. Dr. Rouleau and his colleagues have successfully identified genes linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as the gene linked to a juvenile form of ALS and a gene linked to a form of epilepsy. He has mapped over 20 disease loci, and significantly contributed to the identification of over 10 gene-causing diseases, as well as to a better understanding of the pathogenesis of numerous diseases.
Angela Genge, MD - Montreal Neurological Institute. Dr. Genge is Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University, Medical Director of the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) and Director of both the ALS Clinic and Pain Clinic at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI). She is also an Attending Neurologist at the MNI. Since her appointment as Director of the CRU in December 2004, Dr. Genge has expanded both the number and scope of clinical trials in a wide variety of neurological diseases. The CRU now runs and supports clinical research in a wide variety of neurological diseases including Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Epilepsy, Migraines, Pain, Brain Tumour and Stroke.
Francesco Fornai, PhD - University of Pisa. Dr. Fornai is an expert in the field of neurodegenerative diseases namely Parkinson’s disease and ALS. He and his colleagues recently published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (USA) that lithium slows ALS disease progression.
Robert Brown, MD, PhD - Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Dr. Brown is a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Day Neuromuscular Laboratory and Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital. The Day Laboratory for Neuromuscular Research founded in 1984 by Dr. Brown investigates neuromuscular diseases. It has become an internationally recognized center for research and clinical care in neuromuscular diseases. Dr. Brown and his collaborators have made many important contributions to the understanding of the biology of neuromuscular diseases, including identification of several genes involved in familial ALS. The MGH Day Laboratory contributions include investigations of ALS, Miyoshi myopathy, periodic paralysis, and adrenoleukodystrophy (lorenzo’s oil disease). Current research includes stem cell transplantation studies, drug screening to find promising compounds for treatment, human and mouse trials of promising drugs, and genetic investigations to find new genes that cause ALS in families.
Anita Kar, Montreal Neurological Institute, 514-398-3376, anita.kar mcgill.ca