U-M Hockey, Clinic Team Up Again to Fight ALS

Ann Arbor, Mich. – There’s no question the University of Michigan hockey program has been touched by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Former U-M hockey player Scott Matzka prepares to drop the puck before last season’s #IceALS hockey game between Michigan and Union College. (Photo courtesy IMG)

Scott Matzka, who played for U-M from 1997-2001 and assisted on the goal that gave the Wolverines the 1998 NCAA Championship, was diagnosed with ALS in 2014. Former Michigan player Jim Ballantine (1988-1991), died from ALS in 2002. And Joe Feudi, the husband of Yost Arena business office manager Jill Feudi, is also fighting the disease.

That’s why, for the second straight year, the University of Michigan’s hockey team will hold an ALS Awareness game to bring more attention to the degenerative nerve disease, when the Wolverines face off at 7:30 p.m. February 3 against Wisconsin.

The University of Michigan’s Comprehensive ALS Clinic, which specializes in treating ALS patients and conducting groundbreaking ALS research, will be present at Yost Arena to help hockey fans better understand just how devastating ALS is to patients and their families.

“We see every week in the clinic how ALS profoundly impacts lives, and we work closely with our laboratories to understand how ALS progresses – and hopefully learn how we can finally stop it,” said ALS Clinic Director Stephen A. Goutman, MD. “Raising awareness about ALS is critical to our work, and having the Michigan hockey program in our corner is incredible valuable.”

Scott Matzka and his family will be in the crowd on Feb. 3.

“As a former Wolverine hockey player, I am extremely proud and excited to see how the Michigan hockey program has shown support for me and the ALS cause,” Matzka said in an email. “Ultimately, I am so moved by the hockey program and former teammates with their level of support! It means so much to me and my family!”

ALS is a disease that steadily kills the nerves that control muscles. Patients lose the ability to control their limbs, facial muscles, swallowing, and eventually, the ability to breathe. Typically, patients die between 2-5 years after diagnosis. There is no known cure.

But ALS wreaks havoc on patients’ families as well. Many ALS-related medical services are not covered by insurance, and care for ALS patients is so intensive that family members frequently have to give up their jobs. Medical expenses and lost income amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The University of Michigan’s Comprehensive ALS Clinic provides a wide range of service to ALS patients, including physical, occupational and respiratory therapists, a nutritionist, a social worker, and a chair specialist – all of which are important to ALS patients and their families. The ALS Clinic fund covers services that aren’t billable to insurance.

“Each service we provide is necessary for the independence, mobility and well-being of our patients,” said ALS Clinic Research Director Eva Feldman, MD. “These patients couldn’t function without those services. But too often they have to be covered by monies that would otherwise go to ALS research. It’s a terrible conundrum that these patients face daily.”

To make a donation or to learn more about the University of Michigan Comprehensive ALS Clinic, please visit www.umich-ALS.org.

Dr. Feldman speaks at stem cell conference in Poland

December 11,2017

Warsaw, Poland – Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, was a featured speaker at the “International Scientific Conference on Stem Cells: Research and Treatment,” held Dec. 8-9, 2017.

Dr. Eva Feldman, right, answers a question during the press conference that kicked off the International Scientific Conference on Stem Cells: Research and Treatment conference in Poland.

Dr. Feldman’s talk, “Stem Cell Therapy in ALS: Where Are We Today” highlighted the research effort of Dr. Feldman and the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery to use stem cells in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Dr. Feldman is the Principal Investigator of the first human clinical trial of intraspinal transplantation of stem cells in patients with ALS, which has completed Phase I and Phase II trials, and included 30 patients.

Those studies showed that intraspinal transplantation of up to 16 million stem cells in patients with ALS was safe and well-tolerated, and caused no acceleration in disease progression, according to data recently published in the journal Neurology. Additionally, 70 percent of patients recovered to higher levels than those of the historic control.

Preparations are under way for Phase 2b, which will expand this procedure to 60 new stem-cell recipients.

PNR&D researchers support World Diabetes Day

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Researchers from the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D) gathered to support World Diabetes Day, celebrated this year on November 14 with the theme “Diabetes and Women – Our Right to a Healthy Future.”

Researchers and colleagues from the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery gathered in the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Sciences Research Building to support World Diabetes Day’s “Blue Circle” campaign to bring awareness to women’s health issues. World Diabetes Day was November 14.

World Diabetes Day is symbolized by the International Diabetes Federation’s Blue Circle Campaign. The PNR&D team commemorated the event by forming its own Blue Circle.

Diabetes affects more than 29 million people in the United States, with another 86 million showing pre-diabetic signs. The number of diabetes patients is increasing by 5 percent per year and more than one in three Americans born in 2000 will likely develop diabetes in their lifetime.

PNR&D, under the direction of Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, is a team of more than 30 physicians and neuroscientists dedicated to understanding neurological disorders and finding better treatments and cures. Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, is the leading cause of diabetic amputations and can also damage to the heart and eyes.

“Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in our country and around the world,” Dr. Feldman said. “And the sad fact is that its numbers will continue to climb. Its neurological complications can be devastating, and we are determined to understand those complications so we can treat and ultimately cure them.”

Understanding diabetic neuropathy is a main focus of PNR&D scientists:

  • PNR&D scientists have developed a diagnostic procedure for peripheral neuropathy that is used worldwide.
  • PNR&D researchers have discovered that excess fats in the bloodstream (dyslipidemia) may play a greater role in diabetic neuropathy than sugars in the bloodstream – a finding that may help us find new treatments.
  • Our laboratory is working to understand how excess fats in the bloodstream negatively impact the human brain – and developing studies in patients that identify how obesity and diabetes can reduce a patient’s ability to think, as well as reduce strength and mobility.
  • Next steps include conducting clinical trials in a number of distinct populations to compare the nervous system benefits of weight loss, increased exercise, and bariatric surgery.

World Diabetes Day focused this year on women’s health. According to the International Diabetes Federation:

  • There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes. This total is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040.
  • Two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age, accounting for over 60 million women worldwide.
  • Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths per year.
  • Women with type 2 diabetes are almost 10 times more likely to have coronary heart disease than women without the condition.
  • Women with type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of early miscarriage or having a baby with malformations.

PNR&D Scientists Present Research at Peripheral Nerve Society meeting in Spain

The Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D) was well-represented at the 2017 annual meeting of the Peripheral Nerve Society, held July 8-12 in Barcelona, Spain.

Members of the lab presented 11 different findings during platform, oral, poster and special sessions at the meeting.

Additionally, PNR&D Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, chaired the symposium titled “Diabetic Neuropathy: Branching Out,” that included presentations by four PNR&D researchers. Amy Rumora, PhD, co-chaired the plenary PJ Dyck Lecture.

Among the presenters from PNR&D:

Platform session
Lucy Hinder, PhD: Conserved Bioenergetic Signature in Peripheral Nerve of BKS-DB/DB and High Fat Diet Mice with Neuropathy.

Oral Presentations
Signe Toft Andersen, PhD: Distal Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy Following 13 Years of Type 2 Diabetes Assessed By The Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument Questionnaire. A Prospective Study, the Addition Denmark Study

Amy Rumora, PhD: Differential Effect of Saturated and Unsaturated Fatty Acids on Mitochondrial Trafficking in Dorsal Root Ganglion Sensory Neurons

Diabetic Neuropathy: Branching Out

Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD — Chair

Amy Rumora – Diabetic Neuropathy is a Disorder of Trafficking

Lucy Hinder – Bioenergetic Failure: The Crux of Diabetic Neuropathy

Stephanie Eid, PhD – NADPH Oxidases: New Insights into the Molecular Pathogenesis of Diabetic Neuropathy

Brian Callaghan, M.D.: Fat is Where It’s At

Poster Sessions
Faye Mendelson: Adipose-Nerve Signaling in Peripheral Neuropathy

Phillipe O’Brien, Ph.D.: High Fat Fed Female Mice Develop Peripheral Neuropathy Despite Normal Systemic Insulin Signaling

Maegan Tabbey: Impairment of Mitochondrial Trafficking in dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons is Dependent on Hydrocarbon Chain Length of Saturated Fatty Acids

Dr. Feldman is a renowned researcher in peripheral neuropathy, and developed a clinical screening instrument for the rapid diagnosis of diabetic neuropathy that is currently being used worldwide. Dr. Feldman is a Past President of the Peripheral Nerve Society.

The Peripheral Nerve Society was founded in 1994 for academic investigators interested in understanding the basic biology and function of the peripheral nervous system – the nature of nerve injury and repair.

U-M student leads BH5K’s top fund-raising team

Ann Arbor – For Lauren Hendel, the fight against ALS became personal when she went home for Thanksgiving last fall. That’s when she and her brothers learned that their father, Stu, had been diagnosed with the disease.

Since then, Hendel, a 19-year-old sophomore in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, has turned her attention toward raising awareness – and money – in the fight against ALS. First, she founded A Lot Stronger (ALS) Together, the university’s first student-run organization dedicated to ALS.

The ALS Together team at the Big House 5K. Top Row: Alex Wineman, Dori Greenberg, Samantha Agin, Abby Gefen, Lauren Hendel. Middle row: Jordy Richman, Aliza Herz, Jamie Schneider, Taylor Yendick, Ashley Cicurel, Kayla Levy. Bottom Row: Sophie Stempel, Allyson Rosenzweig, Megan Kaplan, Brianna Diener, Sloane Rubin, Madison Chajson, and Amy Ruben.

Then she enlisted club members, sorority sisters, Facebook friends and just about anyone else she could find to support ALS Together’s team in the Big House 5K run held April 9. The team raised nearly $4,000 to support the University of Michigan Comprehensive ALS Clinic, one of the race’s six local charity beneficiaries of the race. The total was the most of any fund-raising teams to participate in the race.

“Since I found out my dad was sick I’ve learned a lot more about ALS, and it’s a horrible disease, as bad or worse than cancer,” said Hendel, of Westchester, New York. “There needs to be some sort of awakening toward ALS. The University of Michigan has some of smartest students in the nation, so hopefully we can get someone to advance the research or maybe even find a cure.”

Two other teams – Feudi Strong and the ALS Clinic Staff – also raised money for the U-M ALS Clinic. Through race registrations, individual donations and the racing teams, the Clinic has received nearly $24,000 through the Big House 5K. The final distribution will put the total closer to $25,000.

Upon its formation, ALS Together used the Big House 5K to raise more than $3,800 for the U-M Comprehensive ALS Clinic – money that goes directly to care and treatment for ALS patients, and supports U-M’s broad research effort into the disease. Overall, through race registrations and direct donations, the Clinic has received nearly $24,000 before the final distribution.

“We were incredibly fortunate to have been selected as a recipient of the Big House 5K this year,” said ALS Clinic Director Stephen A. Goutman, MD. “A pulse of funding like this helps us provide more services to ALS patients, which is a tremendous relief for them and for their families. I cannot truly express how grateful we are.”

ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – is characterized by progressive muscle weakness that robs a patient of limb use, the ability to swallow, and finally the ability to breathe. There is no cure, and most ALS patients survive 3-5 years after diagnosis.

The University of Michigan Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Clinic, an ALSA certified center for more than two decades, is committed to providing compassionate care to patients with ALS. Research has shown that active, aggressive management of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis enhances patient survival, and more importantly quality of life, and that’s exactly what we do in the University of Michigan’s Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic. The U-M multidisciplinary team assesses the needs of each patient and develops an individualized care plan that addresses every step of the ALS journey. Once a patient is diagnosed with ALS, our team immediately begins its work implementing a wide array of clinical services designed to assist families and maximize patient health and function, including physical, occupational and respiratory therapy, dietary counseling, social work and a chair specialist.

For Lauren Hendel, the Big House 5K is just the beginning. She and her fellow ALS Together club members are already planning more events for this fall, including an extension of the Ice Bucket Challenge: A huge dunk tank on the U-M campus to raise even more money for ALS research.

“I know there are so many students who participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge and didn’t even know what they were raising money for,” she said. “I know we can do something great.”

Dr. Feldman authors review aimed at shifting worldwide diabetes research

March 22, 2017

Ann Arbor, Michigan – Breakthroughs in understanding the role of fats in the blood, energy transfer between cells, and whole-system analysis are providing clearer paths for researchers seeking therapies for diabetic neuropathy, according to a review written in part by Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D) Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, and published today in the medical journal Neuron.

The review, which explores emerging insights into diabetic neuropathy, the nerve damage that is linked to diabetes, is a departure from earlier research that focused on blood sugars in understanding diabetic neuropathy. By turning their attention elsewhere, researchers are identifying potentially more effective targets for drugs to combat diabetic neuropathy, the leading cause of diabetes-related amputations.

The review was a multinational effort that included senior investigators Klaus-Armin Nave of the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Gottingen, Germany; Troels S. Jensen of Aarhus University in Denmark; and David L.H. Bennett of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

“By combining with key leaders in these various aspects of diabetic neuropathy research, we’ve highlighted recent game-changing advances that have redirected our approach to solving this common but vexing problem,” Dr. Feldman said. “By outlining these discoveries, we hope to reset the focus of diabetic neuropathy research and direct investigators toward new therapeutic targets. I’ve spent my entire career studying diabetic neuropathy. This is a very exciting time for the field.”

Recent technological advances have facilitated research that is examining entire human systems rather than isolated processes within the body. Using genome-wide profiling, investigators can look at entire systems to better understand how genes interact and activate body functions.

Additionally, recent research suggests that nerve damage from diabetes may result from alterations in the relationship between nerves and Schwann cells, the cells which normally protect and support neurons in the peripheral nervous system. Research under way at the University of Michigan has connected the effectiveness of this relationship with the level of lipids, or fats, in the bloodstream.

Because of these discoveries, future treatments for diabetic neuropathy may include targeting these emerging disease mechanisms with pharmaceuticals, in addition to more personalized treatment for each patient, the researchers said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes and another 86 million are pre-diabetic, a condition that increases a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Diabetes is caused by either an inability to generate insulin (Type 1) or an inability to use insulin properly (Type 2). Insulin allows sugars to be used by cells as energy; without effective insulin, sugars build up in the blood and can cause heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage which leads to amputation of toes, feet or legs.

PNR&D reach expands through research collaborations

The impact of the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery is amplified by a wide range of collaborations with researchers across the University of Michigan, the United States and the world.

Working with researchers outside the PNR&D not only allows access to much larger patient cohorts worldwide, but allows PNR&D scientists studying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and peripheral neuropathy to work across disciplines in an effort to gain a fuller, more integrated understanding of these diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Active collaborations include:

* In collaboration with Raymond Yung, MBChB, (U-M Department of Internal Medicine), we are applying a systems biology approach combining high-throughput profiling assays, qPCR, and pyrosequencing to determine whether miRNAs are altered in sporadic ALS.

* In collaboration with Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D. (U-M Department of Neurology) and Mats Ljungman, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Radiation Oncology, Comprehensive Cancer Center and Translational Oncology Program and the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health), we are identifying common and unique dysregulated mature miRNA changes in patient-derived fibroblasts from sporadic ALS and C9orf72 ALS subjects using NanoString technology.

* An additional collaborative project with Sami Barmada is also under way, and is focused on differentiating iPSC lines from ALS-patient and healthy control fibroblasts into neurons to assess differential miRNA expression, cell phenotype, and cell survival using Longitudinal Fluorescence Microscopy imaging technology.

* In collaboration with Sunitha Nagrath, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Chemical Engineering), we are determining the biological role and clinical relevance of circulating exosomes in ALS pathology by isolating and quantitating circulating and brain exosomes to characterize the molecular cargo from ALS and healthy control human samples.

* In collaboration with John Kao, M.D. (U-M Department of internal Medicine), we are correlating differences in microbiota diversity in the intestinal system of patients with the development of ALS.

* In collaboration with Tatiana Botero, D.D.S., M.S. (U-M Dental School), Manish Arora, B.D.S, M.P.H., Ph.D. (Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, Department of Preventative Medicine), and Stuart Batterman, Ph.D. (U-M School of Public Health), we are identifying aberrant concentrations and/or absorbance patterns of trace elements in permanent sALS teeth that could be associated with environmental/occupational exposures or nutritional factors leading to sALS.

* In collaboration with Stephen Goutman, M.D. (U-M Department of Neurology) and the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research, we are identifying upregulated pro-inflammatory immune cell populations that correlate with ALS disease progression. The goal is to ultimately identify potential biomarkers or therapeutic targets of disease.

* In collaboration with Brad Foerster, M.D. (U-M Department of Neurology), we are using PET scans to assess macrophage activation levels in the CNS of ALS versus healthy and correlating these data with markers of inflammation in the peripheral blood.

* In collaboration with Nils Walter, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Chemistry), we are using high-resolution single-molecule fluorescence imaging to evaluate miRNA dysregulation and determine whether aberrant interactions between miRNAs and ALS-hallmark protein aggregates disrupt epigenetic homeostasis in the nervous system and lead to the progression of ALS.

* In collaboration with Ben Reubinoff, M.D., Ph.D. (Hadassah Medical Center, Israel), we are developing iPS cell lines from patients with familial and sporadic ALS to study pathogenic disease mechanisms and test therapies.

* In collaboration with Neuralstem Inc. (Germantown, MD), we are developing novel cellular therapies for ALS and AD based on Neuralstem’s human neural stem cell lines. Specific projects include identifying optimal stem cell lines for pre-clinical testing, and utilizing stem cells in rodent models to determine the efficacy of stem cell treatment. Additional projects include examining the effect of the drug NSI-189 on cognitive and biochemical changes in the brains of high fat-fed mice.

* In collaboration with Geoff Murphy, Ph.D. (U-M Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute), we are determining the impact of our NSC therapies on AD-related cognitive deficits of AD mice. Specific tasks include establishing a battery of well-characterized hippocampal-dependent behavior tasks that will enable the evaluation of clinically relevant measures of cognition such as learning and memory, providing important data required by the FDA for future clinical translation of our lead NSC candidates. Additional studies in collaboration with Dr. Murphy include using behavioral tests to examine the effects of high fat feeding and specific drugs on mouse cognition.

* In collaboration with Cindy Chestek, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering) and Parag Patil, M.D., Ph.D. (U-M Department of Neurosurgery), we are devising methods to optimize MRI-guided stereotactic stem cell transplantation techniques to the peri-hippocampal region of the brain. This will allow us to ensure the safety of our approach, enabling rapid translation to early phase trials in patients.

* In a collaboration with Peter Scott, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine), we are testing several novel PET tracers in our AD mouse models to identify a longitudinal biomarker that can be easily translated to AD patients.

* In collaboration with Julia Raykin, Ph.D. (Georgia Institute of Technology), we have received high-throughput, customized, and target-specific quantitative image analysis techniques to measure AD related pathologies in tissue.

* In collaboration with Charles Burant, M.D., Ph.D. (U-M Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics; The Michigan Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core), Subramaniam Pennathur, M.B.B.S. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine; Nutrition Obesity Research Center Molecular Phenotyping Core), Frank Brosius III, M.D. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine and Molecular and Integrative Physiology), Matthias Kretzler, M.D. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine, Computational Medicine and Biology), and Thomas Gardner, M.D., M.S. (U-M Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences), we are using the BKS db/db mouse model of type 2 diabetes to investigate changes in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in kidney cortex, peripheral nerve, and retina. Our systems approach using transcriptomics, metabolomics, and metabolic flux analysis aims to identify tissue-specific differences in glucose and fatty acid metabolism.

* In collaboration with Subramaniam Pennathur, M.B.B.S. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine; Nutrition Obesity Research Center Molecular Phenotyping Core), Frank Brosius III, M.D. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine and Molecular and Integrative Physiology), and Matthias Kretzler, M.D. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine, Computational Medicine and Biology), we are also identifying lipid biomarkers that lead to the onset diabetic kidney disease, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy in order to elucidate the essential cellular lipid metabolism responses that are amenable to novel therapies.

* In collaboration with Brian Callaghan, M.D. (U-M Department of Neurology), Morten Charles, M.D., Ph.D. (Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark), Troels S. Jensen, M.D., D.M.Sc. (Aarhus University), and Reimar W. Thompson, M.D., Ph.D. (Aarhus University), for the International Diabetic Neuropathy Consortium (IDNC), we are addressing the goals of 1) increasing the understanding of basic mechanisms and risk factors in DN, 2) improving the detection and understanding of the clinical course of nerve damage in diabetes, and 3) eventually contributing to the prevention and treatment of DN. The IDNC will ensure an in-depth analysis of basic, epidemiological, and clinical findings of DN, and in addition provide a unique platform for educating future scientists/clinicians within the field.

* In collaboration with Sebastian Parlee, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Physiology) and Michael Dority (U-M Medical School Host Microbiome Initiative), we are using the mouse dietary reversal model to explore the role of pathophysiological local adipose tissue remodeling in HFD-induced neuropathy as well as the role of changes in the intestinal microbiome and their impact on peripheral nerves.

* In collaboration with Celine Berthier, Ph.D., Eddy Sean, Ph.D., and Felix Eichinger, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Internal Medicine), we are using an unbiased bioinformatics clustering method to examine the tissue-specific effects of drugs on the nerves and kidneys during type 2 diabetes.

* In collaboration with Janet Shaw, Ph.D. (University of Utah, Department of Biochemistry), we are studying the involvement of Miro1 and Miro 2 proteins in abnormal mitochondrial trafficking associated with palmitate treatments.

* In collaboration with Guido Cavaletti, M.D. (University of Milan Biccoca, Department of Surgery and Translational Medicine) and Cristina Meregalli, Ph.D. (University of Milan Biccoca, Department of Surgery and Translational Medicine), we are utilizing mitochondrial trafficking techniques to test the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents.

* In collaboration with Marija Sajic, Ph.D. (University College London, Department of Neuroinflammation), we are evaluating changes in mitochondrial transport in saphenous nerve axons of mice, and also plan to apply this technique to the high fat mouse model.

* In collaboration with Jorge A. Iñiguez-Lluhí, Ph.D. (U-M Department of Pharmacology), we are examining post-translational modifications in the CNS to determine the role of alterations in SUMOylation and ubiquitination in the pathogenesis of sensory neuron degeneration.


Teaming up to #IceALS

Ann Arbor – A new awareness campaign to support ALS patient care and research picks up right where the Ice Bucket Challenge left off: On ice.

With fans chanting “Ice ALS,” Michigan’s hockey, research and clinic teams, along with the ALS Association’s Michigan Chapter, all came together on October 8 to defeat a common opponent: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.

10/8/16 2016-17 Men's Ice Hockey defeats Union College. IHM 2016-17 Win 4-0

The event, held at Yost Ice Arena, was part of the University of Michigan’s 4-0 hockey victory over Union College. It included former Michigan hockey player Scott Matzka, as well as Joe Feudi, whose wife Jill is the business operations manager for Yost Arena. Families of both Matzka and Feudi participated; Matzka dropped the ceremonial first puck to start the game. Both men are ALS patients.

The event was also attended by PNR&D Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, an eminent ALS researcher; Stephen A. Goutman, MD, Director of the U-M’s Comprehensive ALS Clinic; and Paula Morning, Executive Director of the ALS Association’s Michigan Chapter, all of whom wore #IceALS t-shirts.

10/8/16 2016-17 Men's Ice Hockey defeats Union College. IHM 2016-17 Win 4-0

The event was designed to raise awareness of ALS, a degenerative disease that causes nerve cells to die. ALS patients first experience weakness in their muscles, but eventually lose their ability to eat and breathe. There is no known cure.

“The 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge drew a lot of national attention to ALS,” Dr. Feldman said. “But we still have a long way to go to raise awareness and funding for ALS research. So we’ve taken to the ice again – in a different way – to keep ALS in the public eye.”

The University of Michigan’s ALS Clinic provides multidisciplinary care for ALS patients that includes respiratory, physical and occupational therapy to help patients live independently for as long as possible; nutritionists to keep them strong; a social worker to help families identify and secure needed resources; and even a wheelchair specialist.

“We’re so grateful to these U-M hockey families touched by ALS for everything they’re doing,” continues Feldman. “They are truly remarkable. They’ve received this diagnosis so bravely, and they’re out here advocating and inspiring all of us to keep up the fight to ice ALS.”

See the related U-M Health blog here.

PNR&D continues collaborative mission in India

The Program for Neurology Research & Discovery’s mission of worldwide collaboration continued this summer, connecting Mount Pleasant, Michigan, with Chennai, India, through the work of medical students Sam Jackson and Mutshipay Mpoy.

The pair, rising second-year students in the Central Michigan University College of Medicine, traveled to India as part of a University of Michigan-led team of medical researchers working to improve the understanding and treatment of diabetes.

Sam Jackson, left, and Mutshipay Mpoy in Ann Arbor.

Sam Jackson, left, and Mutshipay Mpoy in Ann Arbor.

The study is led by PNR&D Director Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, a world-renowned leader in the field of diabetic neuropathy. Jackson’s work in diabetic neuropathy began as a U-M undergrad, when he began working with Dr. Feldman in the PNR&D. Mpoy, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and fled to the United States as a refugee in 2000, has always had a passion to improve and care for underrepresented communities internationally.

The study is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Vijay Viswanathan, director of the MV Diabetes Hospital in Chennai. Its goal is to improve understanding the mechanism of diabetic neuropathy – or nerve damage – the most common complication of diabetes.

According to Jackson, one of the interesting findings seen in the clinic is that patients may present with neuropathy without having full-on diabetes. Many patients develop this complication in what’s known as the pre-diabetic state, indicating that there may be other factors contributing to the progression of the nerve damage. In order to better understand this, this team of scientists has been screening patients in this early state of diabetes, looking not only at their sugar levels, but also other metabolic parameters including blood pressure, waist circumference, and various fat levels in their blood in order to identify other clues that may be factors in the development of this devastating disease.

“I’ve been repeatedly asked a very important question by my friends and family, ‘Is diabetes even a problem over there?’” Jackson said. “And the resounding answer is, ‘YES!”

Jackson said India reported more than 69 million cases of diabetes in 2015, more than double the U.S., which has around 30 million. One estimate shows that more than 1 million Indians die due to diabetes each year, and the problem seems to be getting worse. Due to poverty and certain cultural practices, the complications of diabetes seen in India can be more extreme than often seen elsewhere. Many people in India walk barefooted, which can be especially dangerous for people with diabetic neuropathy who cannot feel any pain if they cut or burn a foot. Additionally, bacteria love the excess sugar found in diabetic wounds, so infections of these undetected ulcers are very common. Diabetes also damages the blood vessels making it difficult for the body to transport blood and immune cells to the injury to naturally heal the wound. On top of all of this, many of the patients are extremely poor and avoid seeking medical treatment until absolutely necessary. This combination of loss of sensation, increased infection, impaired wound healing, and inability to access health care often add up to amputation, Jackson said.

By gaining a better understanding of diabetes and its complications, health care workers in the India as well as the U.S. can better predict and prevent serious complications such as these.

“Being able to see and experience what the health care system is like in India has been very eye opening,” Jackson said. “I did not grow up thinking I would be doing this kind of medical work abroad, but now I am more motivated than ever to do well in order to go back there. It really has been a life changing experience for me.”

Mpoy agreed.

“This experience has rekindled my love for medicine, reaffirming why I decided to go into medicine in the first place. It has reinforced my desire to work overseas in global health.”

PNR&D Director earns Laureate Award from Endocrine Society

Washington, DC— Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, the Director of the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery, has earned the Endocrine Society’s prestigious 2017 Laureate Award.

Dr. Feldman, the University of Michigan’s Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology and Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, is the winner of the Gerald D. Aurbach Award for Outstanding Translational Research. This annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to research that accelerate the transition of scientific discoveries into clinical applications. She is a clinician-scientist whose basic and clinical research has led to new disease therapies, changed clinical guidelines, and made her an opinion leader in neurology.

She conducted pioneering studies on the causes of nerve damage in metabolic diseases and later used cell-based and novel mouse models as well as human transcriptomics to discover pathways that are disrupted in diabetic neuropathy. She developed a clinical tool for diagnosing diabetic neuropathy that is used worldwide and in multiple clinical trials. An author of more than 350 publications, she is a past President of the American Neurological Association, has received numerous awards, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Endocrinologists are PhDs and MDs who specialize in untangling complex symptoms to study, diagnose, treat, research or cure hormone-related conditions. These professionals are responsible for research breakthroughs that lead to the cures of tomorrow and for providing the gold standard of care for patients with hundreds of conditions and diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, obesity, hormone-related cancers, growth problems, reproduction, infertility and rare diseases, among others.

Established in 1944, the Society’s Laureate Awards recognize the highest achievements in the endocrinology field, including groundbreaking research and innovations in clinical care. The Endocrine Society will present the awards to the 14 winners at ENDO 2017, the Society’s 99th Annual Meeting & Expo in Orlando, FL, from April 1-4, 2017.