GRAND RAPIDS – Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology and Director of the ALS Center of Excellence, was the keynote speaker for the Susan Mast ALS Foundation luncheon on May 20. More than 120 members of the West Michigan ALS community congregated at the University Club in Grand Rapids to hear Dr. Feldman’s presentation.
Dr. Feldman focused her talk on ALS research and the possible reasons why the state of Michigan has one of the highest rates of ALS in the United States. In February, Dr. Feldman and first author Stephen Goutman, M.D., M.S., associate director of the ALS Center of Excellence, published new findings about the impact that environmental toxins have on ALS development and progression. The research was conducted using blood samples from ALS patients in Michigan.
“We have discovered that environmental toxins, including pesticides and flame retardants, increase the likelihood of developing ALS,” says Feldman. “We are using cutting-edge technology to determine how these toxins alter the body’s metabolism and lead to ALS.”
Following her presentation, Dr. Feldman joined Dr. Paul Twydell from Spectrum Health and Dr. Joel Phillips from Mercy Health for a panel discussion about ALS research and care that incorporated questions from the audience. Dr. Feldman elaborated upon other research taking place at U-M — how genetics are a factor in ALS susceptibility, the goal of repurposing an existing drug for treatment in ALS, and the future of stem cell transplantation.
To begin the luncheon, Dr. Feldman was introduced by Sherry Schuen, who is a Grand Rapids resident that receives care from the U-M Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic. A few days prior to the event, Mrs. Schuen was featured by the ABC-affiliated TV station in Grand Rapids. Also, she and Dr. Feldman took part in a PBS-produced panel discussion about ALS earlier in May.