ALS Canada donor-funded research featured in Nature Communications

Delivering promising treatments to the brain can be a challenge because our bodies have a specialized barrier, called the blood-brain barrier, that protects it from substances in the bloodstream. For people living with ALS, this means researchers need to develop creative ways to cross this barrier so that potential treatments can be delivered directly to motor neurons in the nervous system and their surrounding environment.

Funded in part through the ALS Canada Research Program, researchers at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre have been conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial to explore a new method of delivering ALS treatments. The clinical trial results, published today in Nature Communications, describe using magnetic resonance imaging-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) to deliver treatments to the brain.

MRgFUS can temporarily open small spaces in the blood-brain barrier to let the treatments cross into the brain. In this study, four individuals living with ALS underwent the procedure alone (no treatments) and had no major adverse events after 60 days. This means using MRgFUS in people living with ALS should allow for safe administration of treatments to the brain in the next stage of the work. In particular, therapeutic advances in delivering treatments to the lower motor neurons in the spinal cord have been remarkable in recent years, but efficient delivery to upper motor neurons in the brain has not advanced at the same pace. MRgFUS might change that.

It is because of the generosity of donors that the ALS Canada Research Program has been able to invest in research discoveries that move us closer to the future without ALS. While the pace of research never seems fast enough, continued investment in the ALS Canada Research Program helps to accelerate research discovery that is contributing to the development of potential ALS therapies.

For more information on the study, you can read the full press release from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Photo credit: Doug Nicholson/Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

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