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.

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 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.


Buddy’s Pizza president makes $500,000 matching gift for Alzheimer’s research

Robert Jacobs is no stranger to neurological disease: He lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease, and was himself diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome a decade ago.

So the Buddy’s Pizza president takes neurological research personally, and has demonstrated his commitment with a remarkable gift to the Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D): He will match up to $500,000 to support research into environmental toxins and their potential link to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sometimes people make a gift because of family issues or other people’s issues, but I have my own issues,” he said. “My father had Alzheimer’s disease and I’ve had my own syndrome. I believe in Eva (Feldman) and the University of Michigan. It’s pretty simple. It’s actually to make a difference.”

Earlier this year, PNR&D Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, along with Stephen A. Goutman, MD, and others, published a study that showed a high percentage of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) had been exposed to agricultural pesticides. The Jacobs gift gives the PNR&D a jump start on a similar study of Alzheimer’s patients.

“This incredibly generous gift from Bob gives us a chance to make genuine headway in understanding environmental causes behind the growing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in our aging population,” Feldman said. “By making it a matching gift, Bob has in effect doubled down on this research. We’re excited at the opportunity.”

Jacobs was diagnosed a decade ago with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that causes the immune system to attack nerves, causing muscle weakness, tingling and paralysis. And while the syndrome wasn’t necessarily a result of toxins Jacobs has long held an interest in environmental toxins and their impacts on human health.

“This gives the team more money to do something with,” he said. “Hopefully this gift will allow them to draw the correlation between toxicity and Alzheimer’s disease. Then the question becomes what you do with that information. With the extra money you can do so much more.”

The need for intensified Alzheimer’s disease research has never been greater. The disease affects 5.2 million people in the United States, a number that is expected to double by 2050. The national cost of caring for the AD population is estimated at over $200 billion annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by an accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain which, over time, injure and kill brain nerve cells.  As the nerve cells are lost, so is a person’s ability to think, reason and function normally.

About Buddy’s Pizza: Buddy’s Pizza – Detroit’s Original Sicilian Style Square Pizza – was introduced at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a bar in Detroit, in 1946. The business was purchased by Jacobs’ parents, Billy and Shirley Jacobs, in 1970. Today, Buddy’s has 11 locations throughout Metro Detroit.


Pesticide exposure may be risk factor for ALS

New research led by Program for Neurology Research & Discovery Director  Dr. Eva Feldman and other University of Michigan researchers shows environmental pollutants could affect the chances a person will develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

There is no cure for this rapidly progressive motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Those afflicted eventually lose their strength and ability to move their arms, legs and body.

As part of a larger study on environmental risk factors for ALS, U-M scientists published their work on pesticide and other environmental exposures in JAMA Neurology.

“From the first ALS patient I saw over 25 years ago to the ALS patient I diagnosed this week, I am always asked the same question, ‘Why me? What is different about my life that I got this disease?’” says Feldman, co-senior author of the study and a longtime ALS clinician and researcher. “I want to answer that question for my patients.”

Feldman’s team studied 156 people with ALS and 128 people without it. All described their exposure to pollutants at work and at home, with a focus on occupational exposure. The researchers also measured toxic persistent environmental pollutants in blood to gain a more comprehensive assessment of environmental exposures.

“We found these toxic chemicals in individuals both with and without ALS,” says co-first author Stephen Goutman, M.D., director of the U-M Comprehensive ALS Clinic. “We are likely all exposed without our own knowledge, from the air, water and our diet, as these chemicals can last decades in the environment. However, persons with ALS, overall, had higher concentrations of these chemicals, especially in regards to pesticides.”

There was no strong correlation, however, between any particular occupation and likelihood of developing ALS, except for service in the armed forces, a link found in previous studies.

Blood tests showed increased odds of ALS for those with exposure to several different types of chemicals, many of which are no longer widely used because of environmental concerns, such as the infamous pesticide DDT. Some of the classes of chemicals studied, however, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, used as flame retardants, have only experienced recent scrutiny as potential health hazards.

“The challenge is that persons are likely exposed to multiple chemicals and therefore it is too soon for us to know whether individual chemicals, or mixtures of chemicals, lead to motor neuron damage,” Goutman says. “Next, we will really dive into particular chemicals that could be risk factors for the disease.”

‘The first and very important step’

The researchers believe a better understanding of environmental risk factors for ALS could lead to an understanding of why persons develop ALS and also help to explain clusters of ALS cases in different geographical areas.

“This is the first and very important step to identifying what specific exposures are associated with ALS — to answering the ‘why me?’ question,” Feldman says. “Now it is time to understand how these exposures lead to disease with an eye to halting ALS onset. As one of my patients said to me before he died, we want a ‘world without ALS.’”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences provided support for this research.

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


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

Taubman Institute Art+Science featured in The Detroit News

Click here to read about the Taubman Institute’s Evening of Art + Science.


Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, receives Physician of the Year Award

New York — University of Michigan physician and researcher Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, will be honored as one of America’s top doctors at the 11th Annual National Physician of the Year Awards, to be held March 21, 2016, in New York.


Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD

Presented by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., the awards annually recognize and honor exemplary physicians practicing in communities throughout the United States.

Dr. Feldman is one of three recipients of the Clinical Excellence Award.

“It is such an honor to be recognized, but this is truly the result of tremendous teamwork,” said Dr. Feldman, the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, who in addition toe her clinical work also serves as Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute and as Director of the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery. “The University of Michigan attracts such talented and dedicated people to serve our patients in every way, through brilliant staff, cutting-edge research and world-class facilities. I feel deeply privileged to be a practicing clinician-scientist at the University of Michigan.”

In addition to her clinical work she also serves as Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute and as Director of the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery.

Dr. Feldman is on the forefront of applying stem cell research to human disease. She is the Principal Investigator of the first clinical trial of intraspinal transplantation of stem cells in patients with ALS, which completed Phase 2 in 2014. To date, 30 patients have received up to 16 million stem cells injected directly to their spinal cords and a similar therapy is being studied for use in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

She has published more than 325 original peer-reviewed articles, 60 book chapters and three books. Dr. Feldman has more than 25 years of continuous NIH funding and is currently the Principal or Co-Investigator of five major National Institutes of Health research grants, three private foundation grants and one clinical trial focused on understanding and treating neurological disorders, with an emphasis on ALS and diabetic neuropathy.

Her many honors including the Early Distinguished Career Award and the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from the University of Michigan, along with several scientific achievement awards in the field of diabetes. In 2010 she was elected to the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, and she has been listed in Best Doctors in America for more than 12 consecutive years. She served as President of the American Neurological Association from 2011 to 2013, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2014.

Art+Science participants to talk March 23

Celebrating its third annual “Art+Science” project, the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute will also host two talks featuring the eminent artists and physician-researchers collaborating on the innovative fundraiser.


Artist Beverly Fishman, left, and Dr. Eva Feldman discuss their work as part of a collaboration for the 2016 Evening of Art+Science.

The Art+Science project connects the institute’s Taubman Scholars – members of the U-M Medical School faculty – with leading contemporary artists, to explore the commonalities in their respective arenas of creativity and discovery. The artists then go on to produce works of art inspired by the lifesaving medical research of their Taubman Scholar partner, and the works are auctioned to fund more medical research grants through the institute.

On March 23 in Bloomfield Hills, Cranbrook Artist-in-Residence Beverly Fishman will take the stage along with PNR&D Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, at the Cranbrook Art Museum. The duo will discuss their work and the insights they have gained through meetings at one another’s laboratory and studio.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. and the informal talk by Fishman and Feldman will segue into a cocktail reception and possible “sneak peek” of items that will be up for bidding at the gala “Evening of Art+Science” which will take place April 21 at MOCAD in Detroit. Marsha Miro, president of MOCAD, will moderate the discussion.

Another artist-scientist pair will share their art+science experience on March 31 at the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA) in Ann Arbor. The 6 p.m. event will feature a talk with artist Allie McGhee and Taubman Scholar Valerie Opipari, MD, chair of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the U-M Health System. Joe Rosa, director of the UMMA, will chair the discussion.

No registration is required to attend the March 23 and March 31 lecture-receptions.   If you plan to attend, however, kindly e-mail Jason Keech at to facilitate a catering headcount.

For more information about tickets to the April 21 gala and auction, please visit