A consortium led by biomedical researchers at Ulster University has been allocated funding from a $780,000 pot by the US-based Target ALS Foundation to further explore the involvement of muscles in the progression of Motor Neuron Disease.
The Target ALS Foundation is a privately funded body of researchers from academic, biotech and pharma laboratories entirely focused on finding a treatment for patients living with ALS.
ALS is the most common motor neuron disorder affecting tens of thousands of people world-wide. The fatal neuromuscular disease has an adult onset - between 40 and 70 years of age - and is characterized by the degeneration of the motor neurons, progressive muscle wasting and paralysis followed by death.
The Ulster University team will head the ‘ViTAL’ consortium, which includes teams led by the world-renowned clinician Dr Pierre-Francois Pradat (Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, UPMC-Sorbonne Universities, Paris), Dr Susan Knoblach (George Washington University, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC), and Dr Cedric Raoul (INSERM UMR1051, University of Montpellier, France).
Target ALS will support the ViTAL consortium for two years, up to funding of $780,000, of which $266,000 will go to Ulster University.
Dr Stephanie Duguez, Lecturer at Ulster University’s Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine will lead ViTAL. Speaking about the project she said:
"Ulster University and the other consortium members have already produced data showing an altered secretion of vesicles in the muscle stem cells of ALS patients. This is important because exosomal vesicles are implicated in cell-cell communication, which would provide a mechanism to explain how the disease can spread in the body and it may suggest new therapeutic targets for the disease. The Target ALS funding will help us to explore this connection further. The only drug currently available, Riluzole, only modestly prolongs survival and we hope to make progress towards additional therapies and a cure.”
Manish Raisinghani, President of the Target ALS Foundation, said:
“Target ALS is pleased to support the exciting work of the ViTAL consortium. This award is part of our goal to support cutting edge ALS research by talented young investigators.”
The work is also supported by funding from INSERM DGOS, ArSLA, AFM, and Invest NI.