Ice ALS! campaign kicks off Saturday in Yost Arena

Wolverines ice hockey team to promote awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease

Ann ArborIce ALS!  

That’s the slogan of a new grass-roots advocacy campaign that will kick off Saturday with help from the University of Michigan Wolverines ice hockey program.

It’s inspired by the efforts of U-M alum Scott Matzka, who was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) a year ago.   He was not long retired from an 11-year professional hockey career, which was preceded by four years with the Wolverines, including the team’s 1998 NCAA championship season.

Since then, the father of two has advocated for increased funding and research into ALS. Public knowledge and contributions took off in 2014 during the viral Ice Bucket Challenge, and supporters hope to engage a new audience if Ice ALS! spreads throughout the hockey community.

Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, the renowned U-M physician-researcher who is running the first-ever trial of a stem cell treatment for ALS, will be at the game with colleagues in ALS research. She will be joined by Stephen Goutman, MD Clinical Director of the U-M ALS Clinic.

“We have been so privileged to care for Scott,” said Feldman, Research Director of the U-M ALS Clinic and head of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute. “We need to honor him and the many other brave patients like him by dedicating more resources to developing therapies for ALS.   The Ice Bucket Challenge was a great boost to medical research – now let’s all join together to completely Ice ALS!”

On Saturday, October 8, Matzka will drop the ceremonial puck at historic Yost Arena as the U-M ice hockey team faces off against New York’s Union College Dutchmen.

Matzka’s appearance is part of the Wolverine’s ALS Awareness event, which also will feature researchers and advocates for patients with the disease, kicking off “Ice ALS!” The team also will honor another former U-M player, Jim Ballantine, who passed away from ALS. All players will be wearing special patches for this game featuring a block M, ALS awareness ribbon and Scott and Jim’s jersey numbers.

A photo booth will be available for fans to pose and show their support for ALS, and fans may tweet photos to appear on the Yost Arena videoboard.

Feldman and Paula Morning, chief executive officer of the ALS Association Michigan Chapter, will be on hand before and during the match to talk with fans about the latest in ALS research and advocacy, and suggest how new supporters can get involved.

“The ALS Association Michigan Chapter board and staff, in its 28 year history of serving Michigan’s ALS population, is grateful for this opportunity,” said Morning. . “We are most delighted to be a part of this ALS Awareness Night. It is certainty a milestone in the effort to “Ice ALS” as we work to ‘Stop ALS Cold!’ through care, advocacy and research.”

Game time is 5 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online or by contacting the U-M Athletic Ticket Office at (734) 764-0247 or (866) 296-MTIX.

PNR&D director among Michigan’s “Influential Women”

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Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, is among the 100 most influential women in Michigan, according to a Crain’s Detroit Business special report.

The honorees include leaders in business, academia, nonprofits and public policy from across the state.

Feldman, a neurologist and leading ALS researcher, is the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, as well as Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan. Crain’s touts her research team’s oversight of Phase 2 U.S. Food and Drug Administration trials treating ALS patients with injections of embryonic human stem cells.

Another distinguished U-M executive, Marianne Udow-Phillips, MHSA,also was named by Crain’s.  Udow-Phillips directs U-M’s Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT). Crain’s highlights Udow-Phillips’ role in working with the state of Michigan and writing the winning grant for the 5-year, $110 million Michigan Primary Care Transformation demonstration project (MiPCT).

To read the full profiles of both women, or to view the full list of honorees, visit http://www.crainsdetroit.com/awards/mostinfluentialwomen/2016.

Generous donors fund institute’s summer interns

TaubmanSummerInternsPhilanthropy fuels the Taubman Institute’s mission of funding talented, proven clinician-scientists at U-M, and their promising junior counterparts, through grant programs that support these physicians’ laboratory research.

And now, generous donors have made it possible to teach and encourage the medical science leaders of tomorrow.  Michigan philanthropists Joel and Shelley Tauber, longtime U-M supporters and members of the Taubman Institute’s Leadership Advisory Board, are the benefactors of the institute’s newest initiative, the Tauber Family Student Internship Program.

This five-year financial commitment will finance three student internships each year, allowing undergraduate students to work within the laboratories of Taubman Scholars or Emerging Scholars.  It’s hoped that the exposure to cutting-edge translational medical research will encourage these budding scientists to choose a lifetime of striving to bring new cures and treatments to patients with difficult diseases.

“When young, imagining a future for oneself can be overwhelming,” the Taubers said.  “We want to be part of inspiring young people to pursue a future in medical research by exposing them to Michigan’s scientific environment.

“Our goal is to enable interested and qualified young students to be part of teams that are focused on understanding and advancing medicine and its ability to treat disease.”

For 2013, three students will assist in the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery, the laboratory of Taubman Institute Director Dr. Eva Feldman.  They are:

  • Anna Bakeman, a student at the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Rebecca Glasser, a student at Harvard University
  • Sangri Kim, a student at Johns Hopkins University

All of the interns will have an opportunity to work on projects ranging from stem cell derivation to the analysis of skin samples taken from neurology patients.

Rebecca Glasser, a West Bloomfield, Mich. native and a sophomore studying molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, says the internship meshes with her career aspiration to work as a clinician-scientist.

Working in the lab is a manifestation of everything I’ve learned in school,” she said.  “It’s great to actually see how everything comes together in the lab, rather than just in a textbook.  It’s really given me perspective on what I want to do.

Crain’s: Man who received ALS stem cell transplant still doing well

TedHaradaTed Harada, a 40-year-old man diagnosed with ALS, who received stem cell implantations to his spinal cord in two separate surgeries as part of the first-ever FDA-approved trial of a stem cell therapy for ALS, talked last week with Crain’s Detroit business reporter Tom Henderson.  Harada said he’s still feeling the positive effects he attributes to his second surgery, which took place last August.

“I’ve been doing great and feeling great.” Harada told Henderson. “Just now, the left leg showed a little bit of weakness returning, but I’m still so much better than I was before the surgeries. It’s the first time, since August, they’ve noticed any slight weakness.

“It’s clear from the data that the injections reversed my symptoms and slowed down the progression of the disease. I’ve received a blessing. I almost forget I have ALS. I don’t have the constant reminder of having to use the canes. Now, I don’t think about ALS every day. Every couple of days something happens and I think, `Oh, yeah, I have ALS.’ ”

Taubman Institute Director Dr. Eva Feldman received FDA approval in April to move the trial to Phase II, which will study efficacy as well as safety.  Patient recruitment has not yet started for that phase of the trial.

Click here to read the entire Crain’s blog post.

Women Talk Health with Women

Women’s Health & Fitness Day provides a heavy dose of good advice

Women often interact with doctors only when they’re sick. At least once a year, women students in the University of Michigan’s Medical School seek to change that by holding an annual Women’s Health & Fitness Day.

Women often interact with doctors only when they’re sick. At least once a year, women students in the University of Michigan’s Medical School seek to change that by holding an annual Women’s Health & Fitness Day.

This year on January 24, more than 225 women jammed Ypsilanti High School to hear from a wide variety of health-care professionals about how they could lead healthier, happier, more productive lives.

Seventeen medical students and more than 20 community leaders volunteered their time to make this free event possible. It was funded, in part, by the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery.
The day began with a free breakfast and a round of yoga. Then, participants took part in 19 workshops on topics such as depression, sexuality, obesity, financial health and stress management. The sessions were taught by University of Michigan Health System doctors, nurses, physical therapists and nutritionists.
The program culminated with a rousing talk by Sheila Taorima, the Olympic champion from Michigan, who recently founded Friendsport, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire Americans to adopt healthier lifestyles.

“The day was a success with many great worksops and Sheila Taormina’s inspiring keynote,” said Cassandra Niemi, co-director of the event with Lane Frasier. “It was wonderful to talk with so manny women who were energized by new friends and by the knowledge they gained from health-care professionals.

Beyond the Laboratory

Beyond the Laboratory

Sponsor Steve Sarns from NuStep and Becca Schumaker, Michigan Regional Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, join Dr. Eva Feldman in the Big House at the end of the race.

None of our progress would have been possible without the thousands of people who donate their time, money and hard work to support the Program for Neurology & Discovery.

A Run for the Research Money

On Sept. 28, the Big House Big Heart event drew 7,000 runners and walkers to the U-M stadium, where they got to watch themselves cross the 50-yard-line on the stadium’s Jumbotron. Nearly $250,000 was raised for charity. Two great U-M causes were the primary recipients: The Program for Neurology Research & Discovery and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The man with the biggest heart is local attorney Mike Highfield, who started the run in 2007 after watching Phil Bowen, his friend and law partner, pass away from ALS. He and sponsor, Running Fit, have made this an instant fall tradition.

Next year’s date has already been chosen: October 4. For more information, visit the Big House Big Heart Web site.

A Community Fights Back

A Community Fights Back

Gretchen Spreitzer and her husband Bob Schoeni thank all those who participated in this year’s A2A3 Family Field Day.

When Dr. Bob Schoeni was diagnosed with ALS this summer, it was a shock to friends, colleagues and family in the Ann Arbor community. A popular U-M professor Bob has touched a lot of lives, especially through his coaching of girls sports. A large number of Ann Arbor girls call him simply, “Coach Bob.”

When his friends and coworkers heard about his condition, they organized a non-profit, A2A3 (Ann Arbor Active Against ALS), to support ALS research. Some of their initiatives include Training for a Cure, Coaching for a Cure, and Kids Active for a Cure. They have held a garage sale and Family Field Day.

A portion of the proceeds will go to ALS research at the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery. For information, go to www.a2a3.org.

Stem Cells and Salads

Stem Cells and Salads

Dr. Feldman with the hosts of the luncheon (from left): Pamela Applebaum, Susu Sosnick and Leslie Lewiston Etterbeek.

Along with co-hosts Susu Sosnick and Pamela Applebaum, Leslie Lewiston Etterbeek invited Dr. Feldman to her Bloomfield Hills home to talk to 45 guests on October 3 about stem cell research and the promise it holds for finding new treatments and cures for neurological disease.

Feldman explained what makes embryonic stem cells so special and the work she hopes to be able to do at the University of Michigan if such research became legal in the state. Just one month later, the voters of Michigan passed a new law lifting the ban on stem cell research.

Charity Event Par Excellence

League chairs are recognized at this year's tournament.

League chairs are recognized at this year’s tournament.

For the past seven years, the Executive Women’s Golf Association of Metro Detroit has conducted an end-of-season tournament to raise money for the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery. This year’s event took place on September 25 at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland Township.

Nearly 60 people teed off. The golfers, sponsors and a silent auction raised $2,400 for neurological research. The EWGA exists to provide a setting for women to learn to play and enjoy the game of golf for business and pleasure. The Metro Detroit Chapter has over 200 members in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.

Taubman Emerging Scholar Dr. James Dowling makes breakthrough in congenital myopathy research

Dr. James DowlingDowling and colleagues find new gene mutation associated with congenital myopathy

About 50 percent of congenital myopathy cases currently do not have a known genetic basis, presenting a clear barrier to understanding disease and developing therapy, says James Dowling, M.D., Ph.D., the paper’s co-senior author and assistant professor of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Finding a new myopathy gene opens the possibility of providing a genetic explanation for disease in these individuals where no genetic cause is currently known.

In addition, “the identification of a new myopathy gene is an essential first step towards understanding why this disease occurs and how we combat its effects.” says Dowling, a Taubman Emerging Scholar who worked with Margit Burmeister, Ph.D. and her team from the University of Michigan’s Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute to study the new myopathy gene (CCDC78).

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