Connor receives ALS Society grant to study nutritional solution

August 05, 2015

HERSHEY, Pa. -- James Connor, distinguished professor of neurosurgery, neural and behavioral sciences and pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, has been awarded $240,000 by the ALS Society. The three-year award will fund research into a nutritional solution that can be given through a pain-medication delivery device and may increase the life span of patients with ALS.

ALS is a degenerative disease that causes nerve cells to gradually die, leading to paralysis and death.

“Inflammation is increased in ALS, particularly in cells called microglia,” Connor said. “These cells release substances that are harmful to neurons and cause neuronal death. In a study in humans, we found that an increase in certain anti-inflammatory proteins is associated with ALS progressing slowly. Based on this knowledge, the overall theme of our proposal is to limit microglia from secreting toxic factors and to support neuronal survival.”

Connor’s study uses naturally-occurring ingredients already found in the body to support neuronal survival in three ways:

  • By increasing the amount of anti-inflammatory proteins in the central nervous system.
  • By limiting the amount of iron in the central nervous system. Iron can harm cells and increase inflammation, so a protein called H-ferritin, which searches for excess protein, will be used.
  • By providing nutritional support to neurons by increasing glucose concentration in the central nervous system. Neuronal metabolism is altered in ALS, and recent evidence suggests that increased glucose availability may be beneficial.

“At the end of these studies, our aspiration is to have a therapeutic formulation that can be delivered to ALS patients to increase disease-free lifespan,” Connor said. “Successful studies should quickly lead to clinical trials.”

The current study will be done in mice. After the solution is optimized, it can move into clinical trials.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 11, 2015