Latest Gift from Blazeman Foundation Raises Commitment to ALS Research to Nearly $250,000

October 22, 2015

The Blazeman Foundation for ALS has announced its most recent gift to fund research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, raising its total commitment to nearly $250,000.

The Massachusetts-based family foundation is providing $30,000 to help continue a line of research by the ALS Research Group, led by Carol Milligan, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology and anatomy, and director of the ALS Translational Science Unit.

The research group is looking for ways to treat ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The current line of research has shown that the use of “heat shock” proteins, which help control muscle movement, delayed the onset of ALS symptoms and extended survival times in mice. Heat shock proteins help prevent the destruction of motor neurons that can result in a number of neurological diseases including ALS.

“Developing effective therapeutic strategies is a long process that grows in scale until eventually you have a first clinical trial with patients,” Milligan said. “But it all starts in a laboratory with preliminary studies to test the merit of an idea in preclinical studies. Finding the money for that kind of study can be tough—someone has to take a chance on your work.

“The Blazeman Foundation has been critical to helping us move this project along. If we are successful during this phase, we will be in a position to begin discussions with the Food and Drug Administration and plan a first clinical trial.”

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed, unable to even breathe on their own. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death.

The Blazeman Foundation was started by Bob and Mary Ann Blais in memory of their son, Jonathan "Blazeman" Blais, a triathlete who was diagnosed with ALS at age 33 and later died of the disease.

The foundation’s mission is to raise awareness about ALS by leveraging the energy, commitment and compassion of the multi-sport community, and to raise the necessary funds to be directed into leading-edge scientific research to find treatments and an eventual cure for ALS. The foundation seeks to fund promising research projects that no one else is working on.

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