By Shawn Hayward, Montreal Neurological Institute
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University are playing key roles in uncovering the mechanisms underlying ALS and will share in $3.9 million, part of $4.5 million in research funding announced on Nov. 23 by the ALS Society of Canada in partnership with Brain Canada.
Guy Rouleau and his team, comprised of researchers from the MNI (including Patrick Dion, Edward Fon and Stefano Stifani), the Université de Montreal and Université Laval, have been awarded $2.2 million Hudson Grant to study motor neurons and astrocytes created from people living with different forms of ALS via stem cell technology. They will examine the biology of these stem cells to determine if their characteristics in the laboratory can represent different forms of human disease and further develop them as a potential screening mechanism for therapeutics. The tools and tests created in this project will be valuable for both Canadian and global ALS researchers as new resources to understand the disease and find new ways to treat it.
Peter McPherson, is part of a national research team led by Janice Robertson of the University of Toronto which has been awarded $1.6 million Hudson Grant to understand whether the most common genetic abnormality in ALS, which occurs in the C90RF72 gene, causes or contributes to the disease through a loss of the gene’s normal biological function.
Gary Armstrong has been awarded $100,000 Discovery Grant to create new zebrafish models of ALS for the most prominent genetic cause of the disease, which relates to mutations in the C9ORF72 gene, using a state-of-the-art technique.
“Five years ago, the breadth of ALS research we are funding today would not have been possible simply because we didn’t know enough about the disease to be able to ask the kinds of questions that today’s researchers are investigating in their work,” said Dr. David Taylor, Vice President of Research at ALS Canada. “The fact that we now have the ability to explore ALS from different angles reflects the growing body of knowledge about the disease and the increasing likelihood of effective treatments being developed.”
Approximately 1,000 Canadians are diagnosed with ALS each year. At any time, there are approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people living with the disease in Canada, and the average cost of caring for one person with ALS is between $150,000 and $250,000. Every day, two to three Canadians will die of ALS.
About Canada’s ALS Societies
ALS Societies across Canada fundraise on a regional basis to provide services and support to people and families living with ALS and to contribute to the funding of the ALS Canada Research Program. The ALS Canada Research Program funds peer-reviewed research grants and fosters collaboration amongst Canadian researchers, helping to nurture new ideas and build capacity. ALS Societies advocate federally, provincially and locally on behalf of people and families living with ALS for better government support and access within the healthcare system.
About Brain Canada and the Canada Brain Research Fund
Brain Canada is a national non-profit organization headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, that enables and supports excellent, innovative, paradigm-changing brain research in Canada. For more than one decade, Brain Canada has made the case for the brain as a single, complex system with commonalities across the range of neurological disorders, mental illnesses and addictions, brain and spinal cord injuries. Looking at the brain as one system has underscored the need for increased collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and a smarter way to invest in brain research that is focused on outcomes that will benefit patients and families. Brain Canada’s vision is to understand the brain, in health and illness, to improve lives and achieve societal impact.
The Canada Brain Research Fund is a public-private partnership between the Government of Canada and Brain Canada, designed to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research, and maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments. Brain Canada and its partners have committed to raising $120 million, which is being matched by Health Canada on a 1:1 basis for a total of $240 million. For more information, visit www.braincanada.ca.
About The Montreal Neurological Institute
The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro---is a unique academic medical centre dedicated to neuroscience. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro is recognized internationally for integrating research, compassionate patient care and advanced training, all key to advances in science and medicine. The Neuro is a research and teaching institute of McGill University and forms the basis for the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. Neuro researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. For more information, visit www.theneuro.ca.