Archives for July 2014

Coleman event raises $125K for ALS research

A fundraising event held May 29 in honor of Tom Coleman raised more than $125,000 to support the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery’s stem-cell research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other neural degenerative diseases.

UL9A1085The event, held at the Back Bay Bistro in Newport Beach, was originally planned for 150 people. But through word-of-mouth it grew to include more than 250 friends and associates of Mr. Coleman, 47, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2013.

The fundraising event, which included a keynote speech by Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., was organized by Tom’s wife Ronnette Coleman, his business partner and co-founder of LC Automotive, Bill Lawrence, both of Costa Mesa, Calif., Mr. Coleman’s sister, Sue Gottschalk of Canton, Mich., and other friends.

“I am deeply touched by the wide support of our industry for Tom, his family and their desire to contribute to the research efforts of Dr. Feldman and the University of Michigan,” Mr. Lawrence said. “While Tom, his family and friends had worked tirelessly on planning this event, all those involved were taken back by not only the number of attendees, but by their generosity.”

Mr. Coleman is one of 30 patients who have received stem-cell injections in a first-of-its-kind clinical trial that has now reached Phase 2. In Phase 1 of the trial, the spinal cords of 15 patients including Mr. Coleman were injected with stem cells to determine whether the procedure was safe for humans. Phase 2 will add an additional 18 patients, each receiving up to 16 million stem cells — to determine the procedure’s efficacy – how well it works.

“It took a big effort from family and friends to pull this event together,” said Tom Coleman. “But our fundraising success would not have been possible without the strong support of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, PPG, LKQ Corp, The Platinum Group, Single Source, Caliber Collision Centers, CCC and many anonymous individual donors. I sincerely thank each of you for your participation and contribution.”

Tom and Ronnette Coleman have acknowledged that the research being done on ALS will not benefit their family directly, but they are committed to helping researchers find a cure for ALS and other neural degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“I am so grateful to the Colemans and their friends and family who have supported our research at the University of Michigan,” Dr. Feldman said. “For the Colemans this is a profoundly selfless gesture that will hopefully benefit future generations who suffer from ALS and other horrific neurological disorders. The outpouring of support for Tom and Ronnette by their community of friends and associates is truly touching. It is clear that Tom’s impact has been far-reaching.

“It is humbling to see, and it inspires each and every one of us in the lab to never stop searching for a cure.”

PNR&D study links agricultural chemicals to ALS

A study by University of Michigan researchers has shown a link between agricultural chemicals and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a finding that has attracted the federal Centers for Disease Control to fund the study’s expansion.

The association of pesticides and fertilizer exposure to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, was found in the first 66 ALS patients in the interim analysis of a larger study that will ultimately pair more than 400 ALS patients with an equal number of unafflicted, age-matched participants. The study, which relies on numerous tissue samples from participants, is being conducted by the University of Michigan’s Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, headed by neurologist Eva L. Feldman, M.D., Ph.D.

The results of the first cohort were reported in the paper titled “Environmental Risk Factors and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): A Case-control Study of ALS in Michigan.” It was published June 30 in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal. The interim analysis was based on 66 pairs of age-matched ALS patients and unafflicted controls, and for the first time showed a link between agricultural chemicals and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“It is far too early to draw conclusions, but the fact that we’ve made this correlation between common agricultural chemicals and ALS for the first time ever is extremely promising,” said Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s corresponding author. “We need to gather more data, and if these findings hold up we may find a path toward better understanding this mysterious and incurable disease.”

Michigan is known to have “clusters” where the prevalence of ALS is higher than is typically found elsewhere, and researchers are trying to understand why certain people contract ALS while others don’t. The study was designed to compare exposure to a number of chemicals over various time frames between ALS patients and controls. Subjects supplied urine samples so researchers could get a snapshot of chemical exposures in the immediate time frame, and blood samples to determine exposures over 10- and 30-year periods. The study was novel in its use of different exposure periods.

Smoking, occupational exposures to industrial metals, dust and gas, radiation and physical activity were not associated with ALS in the interim analysis. The study is expected to continue into 2015. To participate in the study, contact study coordinator Blake Swihart, at (734) 763-8284 or blakeswi@med.umich.edu.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is characterized by the progressive deterioration of large motor neurons that control muscle function. Patients first develop limb weakness, followed by difficulty speaking and swallowing. As the disease progresses, it retards the patient’s ability to breathe. ALS patients typically die within three years of diagnosis. At any given time, about 50,000 people are afflicted with ALS worldwide. Its causes are unknown and there is no cure.

Funding support for the ALS study was provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Michigan MCubed funding program, and the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute.