Friday, July 31, 2015

Pluto: Fly-by

New Horizons

is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as part of NASA's New Frontiers program.[1] Engineered by the Johns Hopkins UniversityApplied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in BOULDER CO, with a team led by S. Alan Stern, the spacecraft was
launched to study Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper belt, performing flybys of the Pluto system and one or more other Kuiper belt objects (KBOs)

In Perspective


New Horizons Probe's July 14 Pluto Flyby

Its close approach: the day of

Extreme mountains and ice flows

Thursday, July 02, 2015

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge 2.0

This August... And Every August, Until There is a Cure


Nearly one year ago the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the world by storm. Thanks to the viral phenomenon, millions of people were introduced to ALS and took a stand against this disease. Your ice Bucket challengeoutpouring of support has made a profound impact on the quest for a cure and has helped to improve the quality of life for those with ALS and their families.

So much good work happened this year, as a result of your efforts, but it is just the beginning! The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is coming back this August, and every August until there's a cure!

You can be the voice for those who have lost the ability to speak. Picture 29You can fill that bucket ICE or with a drought conscious alternative (be creative), and lift it over your head for the thousands who cannot move their arms. You can spread the word on social media and show your friends and family that you won’t stop until ALS is stopped.

YOU have the ultimate power to make a difference in the fight against ALS.

Thank you for taking the lead. Donations at:


Friday, November 14, 2014

ALS battle continues after Ice Bucket Challenge fades

Ohio area families discuss the devastation of watching a loved one disappear a little at a time thanks to ALS. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis affects 30,000 Americans, an estimated 800 in Ohio. (371 in Co.)

ALS is a cruel illness. Not only to its victims, but to their families. Just ask anyone who has witnessed its devastation or lived it.

“The experience of ALS can quickly make you realize what each of us takes for granted each day,” said Jill Leo, whose husband, Chris, died in March following a seven-year struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Playing catch or soccer in the backyard with your son, taking a walk, a hand-written note, driving a car, mowing your lawn or dialing the phone to talk to a friend. These are just a few things we take for granted that most ALS patients cannot do after the disease progresses.”

The viral Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the globe during the late summer has helped raise awareness and, according to the ALS Association, more than $115 million since July 29.

Those familiar with the disease are grateful for the wave of attention, but the battle against it continues.

Vicki Evans has watched her husband, Tim, deteriorate over 16 years. Diagnosed with ALS in 1998, he has been fighting the disease since, and it has taken its toll.

“Every case is different,” she said. “In 2009, he fell and hyper-extended his knee. His ALS was making it more and more difficult for him to walk. He started using a walker, then gradually, he started losing the use of his hands.”

Evans is now in a wheelchair and no longer has the use of his hands.

“You cannot dwell on your situation,” said Evans, 58, who had to go on disability. As an estimator for the Knoch Corp., he was able to work at home part-time for awhile after his diagnosis, but he said he was laid off in 2005 along with others when the economy took a downward turn. The Knoch Corp. sponsors the Tim Evans AGC (Associated General Contractors) Scholarship each year in his honor.

“Every once in a while, I throw myself a pity party, but I have to go on. I think having a positive attitude is one of the reasons I continue to go on. Not being able to do the daily chores anymore or do what I used to do does get to you.”

Once Canton’s safety director, Paul Bair was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year.

“He is weak,” said his wife, Darlene. “He is in no pain, but he coughs a lot because his lungs and diaphragm are weakened. He is on several machines to keep his lungs clear, but his ALS is progressing quickly.”

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cause of ALS may be found, Northwestern team says… hmmm, keep up the research!

18 yrs old

Dr. Teepu Siddique, a neurologist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, is a member of the team that discovered a common possible cause for all forms of ALS.

Drug ResearchScientific ResearchMedical ResearchNorthwestern UniversityAlzheimer's Disease

Dr. Teepu SiddiqueResearchers at Northwestern University say they have discovered a common cause behind the mysterious and deadly affliction of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, that could open the door to an effective treatment.

Dr. Teepu Siddique, a neuroscientist with Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine whose pioneering work on ALS over more than a quarter-century fueled the research team's work, said the key to the breakthrough is the discovery of an underlying disease process for all types of ALS.

2008-07-05 19.11.24

The discovery provides an opening to finding treatments for ALS and could also pay dividends by showing the way to treatments for other, more common neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia and Parkinson's, Siddique said.

The Northwestern team identified the breakdown of cellular recycling systems in the neurons of the spinal cord and brain of ALS patients that results in the nervous system slowly losing its ability to carry brain signals to the body's muscular system.

Without those signals, patients gradually are deprived of the ability to move, talk, swallow and breathe.

"This is the first time we could connect (ALS) to a clear-cut biomedical mechanism," Siddique said. "It has really made the direction we have to take very clear and sharp. We can now test for drugs that would regulate this protein pathway or optimize it, so it functions as it should in a normal state."

The announcement of the breakthrough is in Monday's issue of the research journal Nature. The paper lists 23 contributing scientists, including the lead authors, Northwestern neurological researchers Han-Xiang Deng and Wenjie Chen, and Siddique as senior author.

ALS afflicts about 30,000 Americans. With no known treatment for the paralysis, 50 percent of all ALS patients die within three years.

It is particularly tragic because it often strikes people who are very physically active. In 1941, New York Yankee baseball superstar Lou Gehrig died at 37 of the disease that now carries his name.2008-07-22 18.51.33

Amelie Gubitz, a research program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said the Northwestern research is a big step forward in efforts worldwide to conquer ALS.

"You need to understand at the cellular level what is going wrong," said Gubitz. "Then you can begin to design drugs.

"ALS is a complicated problem, and Dr. Siddique's research adds a big piece to the puzzle that gives us important new insights."

A variety of proteins perform different functions within cells, and Deng and Chen led research that discovered a key protein, ubiquilin2, in the ALS mystery.

Ubiquilin2 in spinal and brain system cells is supposed to repair or dispose of other proteins as they become damaged. The researchers discovered a breakdown of this function in ALS patients.

When Ubiquilin2 is unable to remove or repair damaged proteins, the damaged proteins begin to pile up in the cells, eventually blocking normal transmission of brain signals in the spinal cord and brain, leading to paralysis.

There are three forms of ALS: "familial," which is hereditary and passed through genes; nonhereditary, which is called "sporadic"; and ALS that targets the brain, called "ALS/dementia."

Siddique was part of a study that made a breakthrough in ALS in the early 1990s, discovering the "familial" gene that causes the disease within some families. That breakthrough came after he began an ongoing study 25 years ago of an East Coast family that has lost more than 20 members to ALS.

Joanne Saltzman, a 72-year-old member of that family, recalled last week how she first learned of ALS when she was a small girl and her father, a naval veteran, was dying of the disease. Her grandfather died of it, too, as did four of her father's seven brothers.

Subsequently, one of Saltzman's sisters and many of her cousins died from ALS. It killed her 51-year-old son last October, she said in a phone interview, and in February her 52-year-old niece died of it.

"I am so excited by their new findings," Saltzman said of the Northwestern study. "Dr. Siddique has been studying our family for 25 years, and it is so encouraging for our remaining family."

"I told Dr. Siddique's office, if I could cut off my arm and send it to them I would if it would help them in the research," she said. "I would do anything. It is so important to me to be able to find some kind of cure for this awful disease."

ALSA overwhelmed by Ice Bucket campaign :-)


In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "Ice Bucket Challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

Approaching $110 million, the viral fundraising campaign for the ailment also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease has put the ALS group into the top ranks for medical charity donations. Since the end of July, the money has been sloshing in at a rate of about $9 million a week. Last year, from July 29 to Aug. 26, the group raised just $2.6 million.

It's caught everyone off guard, none more so than the ALS Association folks. But they know this is likely a one-off phenomenon, and the group now faces the task of spending all that money wisely. Research, care and advocacy are the group's three main missions - but officials say they don't know yet exactly how they'll use the astonishing windfall.

"I think even if I or any PR person at either a non-profit or a for-profit company had all of the PR dollars in the world to invest, no one would have come up with this idea," said Carrie Munk, the association's spokeswoman. "We realize there are responsibilities that come with being good stewards of these dollars."

Part of what's surprising is that ALS - or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - is one of those "orphan" diseases. It is a neurodegenerative disease that causes paralysis and death, and the association estimates that about 5,600 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

This campaign hasn't exactly put the charity in the same neighborhood as giants like the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association or Susan G. Komen for the Cure - which raised $889 million, $529 million and $310 million last year, respectively. But it's moving into the same ZIP code now.

"People who have been in this space for a long period of time feel like it's a dream come true," says Munk.

In case you've been under the proverbial rock, here are the basic rules: Someone issues a challenge - that you allow yourself to be doused with a bucket of ice and water, like winning coaches along the sidelines. Then, the challengee has 24 hours to make a $100 donation to the ALS Association or submit to the water torture.

In the last month, everyone from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to former President George W. Bush has been doused. The Internet and airwaves are awash in videos of people taking the challenge - even if they fully intend to write the check.

Jonah Berger, author of the book "Contagious: Why Things Catch On," says it's like a modern-day chain letter - except, in this case, everyone will know if you break the chain.

"It has a lot of the key ingredients that often make people want to share things," said Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "It gives people lots of social currency to be part of it. It makes you look good. It makes you look smart and in the know - you know what's going on. And it's always hard to back down from a challenge."

And now others are co-opting the bucket challenge for their own causes.

Actor Matt Damon, for instance, dumped toilet water over his head to call attention to his passion - safe drinking water. Actor Orlando Jones of the television series "Sleepy Hollow" showered himself with bullets in the wake of black teenager Michael Brown's shooting death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

"I'm challenging myself to listen without prejudice, to love without limits and to reverse the hate," he said. "So that's my challenge - to me. And, hopefully, you'll accept this challenge, too."

The Chronicle of Philanthropy says the ALS Association has, in this short period of time, raised more than many of the charities included on its Philanthropy 400 list.

"Right now, we're really focused on reaching out to and acknowledging and thanking the over 2 million donors that have come to the ALS Association," said Munk, the association spokeswoman. "And also working to put a process in place to make the best decisions to spend these dollars."

The American Institute of Philanthropy's CharityWatch gave the group a B+ rating for spending about 73 percent of its cash budget on programs. Analyst Stephanie Kalivas has no reason to believe that rating will need to be downgraded.

"We will definitely be keeping an eye out for them," she said. "Hopefully, they won't be wasteful with it."

Dr. Richard Bedlack, who runs the ALS clinic at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences in Durham, N.C., knows how he would allocate the money. While the temptation might be to plow it all into the search for a cure, he says the biggest strides have been made in patient care and quality of life, and that would be his No. 1 priority.

"The chances of one of these research studies really finding meaningful disease-modifying therapy is very small," he says. "We're shooting in the dark. So, of course we've got to keep trying. But the bottom line is we've got to understand this disease better before we're going to be able to fix it in most people."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Researchers discover how ALS spreads

A study led by University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute researchers has revealed how the fatal neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is transmitted from cell to cell, and suggests the spread of the disease could be blocked.


"This work identifies an important piece of the puzzle in determining how the disease is transmitted throughout the nervous system," says lead investigator Dr. Neil Cashman, UBC's Canada Research Chair in Neurodegeneration and Protein Misfolding. "By understanding how this occurs, we can devise the best ways to stop the progressive neurological damage seen in ALS."

The research shows that misfolded non-mutant SOD1 can be transmitted from region to region in the nervous system, offering a molecular explanation for the progressive spread of ALS.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study also shows the spread can be blocked using antibodies. Antibodies were specifically raised to bind to regions of SOD1 exposed when it is misfolded, and block its spread. If non-mutant SOD1 misfolding is the cause of ALS, as the study suggests, then the antibodies could arrest ALS progression, the researchers say.

This work builds on previous research in Cashman's lab. ALS is associated with the mutant SOD1 protein (superoxide dismutase 1) and earlier investigations found that the disease-associated mutant SOD1 can induce a change in the shape of other proteins at the molecular level by misfolding inside living cells. The affected proteins then accumulate in ways similar to the process underlying prion diseases – rare, fatal, degenerative brain disorders seen in both humans and animals.

ALS is a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons progressively degenerate and die so that the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement. Patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. There are approximately 140,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide each year.



Dr. Neil Cashman is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Neurodegeneration and Protein Misfolding at UBC, and Academic Director of the Vancouver Coastal Health ALS Centre. He is also a member of the Brain Research Centre, a partnership between UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

Prion disease:

Prion diseases belong to the general category of brain diseases called proteinopathies, which also includes Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. The most common human form of prion disease is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Prion diseases of animals include Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) (mad cow disease) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and elk.

Additional links:

Vancouver Coastal ALS Centre:

Brain Research Centre:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

FDA okays start of BrainStorm stem cell trial in ALS patients

BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the start of a mid-stage clinical trial of its adult stem cell treatment for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The Phase II trial will be MSC-NTFlaunched initially at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Connell O'Reilly Cell Manipulation Core Facility will manufacture BrainStorm's NurOwn cells for these two clinical sites. The trial will also be conducted at the Mayo Clinic, the Israel-based company said on Sunday. The trials are expected to start soon.

"Today's announcement represents the most significant milestone BrainStorm has achieved to date," the company's president, Chaim Lebovits, said.

This trial will be the first Phase II double-blinded stem cell study to be conducted for ALS, he added.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

BrainStorm's Phase II trial is designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of transplantation of the stem cells in 48 ALS patients. The cells will be administered via intramuscular and intrathecal injection.

Patients will be followed monthly for three months before transplantation and for six months following transplantation.

Earlier clinical trials have shown that treatment with NurOwn cells was well tolerated and safe.

Last week, Cytokinetics Inc said its experimental treatment for Lou Gehrig's Disease failed the main goal in a mid-stage trial.