How does the loss of the normal function of DNAJC7 cause ALS?

Thanks to new funding from the ALS Society of Canada and Brain Canada, Dr. Martin Duennwald of Western University, an expert on protein misfolding in neurodegenerative disease, is coming together with Dr. Sali Farhan, an up-and-coming Canadian researcher at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital). Together they will explore how mutations in DNAJC7 impede its ability […]

Can zebrafish help explain how mutations in this gene contribute to ALS?

An interdisciplinary Canadian team headed by Dr. Gary Armstrong of The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital)  is poised to explore how a recently linked pair of genes contribute to the onset of ALS. In 2014, mutations in a gene called CHCHD10 were newly identified as a genetic cause of ALS; just four years later, Dr. Eric […]

Is it possible to target the root cause of ALS linked to the C9ORF72 gene?

Dr. Christopher E. Pearson, a genetics expert based at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto and Full-Professor at the University of Toronto, has studied DNA repeat expansions, a type of genetic mutation common to neurodegenerative disease, for decades. Recently, his team successfully reversed one version of this type of mutation in a Huntington’s […]

Could mindfulness improve quality of life for people living with ALS?

Thanks to joint funding from Brain Canada and ALS Canada through the 2020 Discovery Grant Program, a team based at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) will be able to pioneer a study on mindfulness in ALS, with the goal of helping health care professionals, people living with ALS and their primary caregivers enjoy better quality […]

Could inflammation in this pathway provide a new target for ALS therapies?

A newly identified pathway has been piquing research interest around the world for its possible role in ALS. Recently, Canadian virologist Dr. Honglin Luo, in collaboration with her colleague Dr. Neil Cashman, discovered that an immune pathway known as cGAS-STING – a catchier abbreviation for cyclic GMP-AMP synthase-stimulator of interferon genes – is activated by […]

The Brain-Gut connection: Could a probiotic help delay the onset or severity of ALS symptoms?

The relationship between the gut and the brain has received increasing attention in recent years, and while there is evidence that probiotics support gut health – new research shows that probiotics may also have intriguing possibilities for applications in ALS. A team led by Dr. Alex Parker (Department of Neuroscience, CRCHUM, Université de Montréal), has […]

Can an animal model provide new insights into the formation of stress granules?

Alicia Dubinski may have inherited both her love for science and studying a neurodegenerative disease from her mother, a neuroscientist at the University of Toronto. When Dubinski was still a graduate student at the University of Waterloo, she met Dr. Christine Vande Velde at l’Université de Montréal in the Spring of 2019. She knew right […]

Can new understandings about nuclear speckles lead to new treatment options for ALS?

In 2018, Dr. Ulises Rodriguez Corona was looking for a new research field where he could apply his knowledge and expertise in the biology of protein production in cells and the genetic instructions that control their behaviour. When he learned of an opportunity to perform high-tech research on protein-protein interactions in RNA metabolism in Dr. […]

Could newly discovered tags on TDP-43 protein explain its abnormal behaviour in ALS?

Overhearing one conversation was all it took to spark a new idea that became a funded ALS research project. Terry Suk, a PhD student working in the lab of Dr. Maxime Rousseaux at the University of Ottawa, heard Dr. Rousseaux and another student discuss a list of proteins in the brain that are modified by […]

Is the loss of normal function of C9ORF72 protein in a particular cell type a key driver of ALS disease processes?

Rahul Kumar has a burning curiosity to uncover the biological mechanisms driving neurodegenerative diseases. After finishing his combined Bachelor of Science/Master of Science degrees at a prestigious research institute in India, he moved to Canada so he could work on ALS research. He joined Dr. Peter McPherson’s lab at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital […]

What is the role of a newly discovered protein in ALS?

Myriam Gagné was not expecting to work on ALS research. But the first time she saw Dr. Christine Vande Velde’s lab at l’Université de Montréal, it was “love at first sight.” Studying ALS would allow her to combine basic cell biology, neurosciences and biochemistry, her main academic areas of interest. She joined the lab in […]

Can the key to slowing ALS progression be found in the immune cells of the brain?

Microglia are the primary immune cells of the brain and spinal cord. They patrol the central nervous system to track down and dispose of unwanted cellular debris and dead neurons, as well as organisms like bacteria and viruses that pose a threat of infection. When they detect invaders, they change their behaviour to summon the […]

Partnering with the ALS community on a new assessment tool

When someone has a disease, like ALS, their quality of life is affected in many different ways as the disease progresses. “Quality of life can mean many different things to different people. For some, it means functional abilities, like walking to the mailbox, but for others, it may mean leisure activities, or family and social […]

Can new understandings about RNA granules explain types of ALS?

Over the past several years, ALS researchers have learned that little structures in motor neurons called RNA granules are one of the most common biological differences in people with ALS and frontotemporal dementia compared to people without those diseases. These small ball-like granules are made of RNA, molecules that relay the genetic instructions in DNA, […]

Does a previously unstudied protein play an important role in ALS?

A protein called TDP-43 is usually found inside the cell nucleus where it plays an essential role in regulating many cellular processes. But in 97 per cent of people with ALS and nearly half of the people with frontotemporal dementia, TDP-43 is found outside the cell nucleus in an area called the cytoplasm. Understanding why […]

Can antibodies help diagnosis ALS faster?

Current methods for diagnosing ALS can take up to two years and rely heavily on ruling out other conditions that share similar signs and symptoms. It is believed that by the time ALS is diagnosed, therapies may be less effective as the damage to neurons is too extensive. Therefore, a better way of diagnosing ALS […]

Does a viral infection play a role in ALS onset and progression?

A group of viruses called enteroviruses usually cause mild illnesses with symptoms that may include fever, respiratory issues and flu-like muscle aches, similar to the common cold. However, some can cause more serious health problems, such as enterovirus D68 that can cause severe respiratory illness or the poliovirus that causes polio. Some researchers have long […]

Can Advanced Brain Imaging Diagnose ALS Earlier?

Current methods for diagnosing ALS involve ruling out other diseases that share similar symptoms. As a result, it can take a year or more from the onset of symptoms to confirm a diagnosis of ALS. That’s far too long — especially for a disease that on average claims lives within two to five years after […]

Could decreasing the over-excitability of motor neurons be a new way to treat ALS?

Within the brain and spinal cord, neurons pass electrical signals to each other through specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters. When this signalling network functions properly, there is a good balance between chemicals that excite the neurons and chemicals that inhibit them. Both excitation and inhibition are necessary for the brain to function normally and send signals […]

Do newly-discovered alternative proteins play a role in ALS?

Proteins are essential building blocks the body uses to make tissues such as muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Conventional science assumes that a section of DNA known as a gene provides instructions for a single protein, or “encodes” a single protein. A molecule called messenger RNA carries those instructions for the production of one specific […]

Cutting-edge technology allows University of Toronto researchers to tackle ALS in a new way.

Scientists have discovered variation within different areas of the brain and spinal cord of people living with ALS — some areas show greater degeneration while others are unaffected. With a $125,000 project grant from the ALS Canada Research Program in 2018, Dr. Janice Robertson and Dr. Paul McKeever, a postdoctoral fellow in her lab, will […]

Can a revolutionary gene-editing tool create better animal models for studying ALS?

Animal models enable scientists to study human diseases in lab settings. They help scientists learn about the biological changes that occur during disease onset and progression, and they can also speed the identification of promising therapies for testing in future clinical trials with human volunteers. In 2005, when he was still a graduate student, Dr. […]

How are two of the most common occurrences in ALS related?

Scientific discoveries are like puzzles. At first, two puzzle pieces may not appear to fit together, but then a new way of comparing them makes it possible to see how they connect, helping to fill in the picture. Mutations in the C9ORF72 gene are the most common genetic cause of ALS. Another abnormality that occurs […]

Can measuring “biological age” explain why ALS affects people differently?

ALS manifests very differently among people who develop the disease. It can occur anytime in adulthood. People usually only live two to five years after diagnosis, but it can range from six months to more than 20 years. Some people living with ALS, about 30 to 50 percent, experience cognitive or behavioural difficulties. Why does […]