Blazeman Foundation Awards Grant for ALS Research at Wake Forest Baptist
Grant Increases Likelihood of Further
Funding and Research into Disease
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Feb.
7, 2011 – The Blazeman Foundation for ALS has awarded a grant of
$11,300, with the possibility of providing an additional $11,000, to support
research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) being conducted at Wake
Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
ALS is a debilitating and
lethal disease characterized by muscle weakness, paralysis and ultimately
respiratory failure. The research study, titled “Muscle Fiber Type Switch as a
Potential Therapeutic Target for ALS,” is being
conducted by Carol Milligan, Ph.D., professor, and Ramon Jimenez-Moreno, Ph.D.,
research fellow, in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy.
The study will examine the
use of the FDA-approved drug AICAR in inducing muscle-fiber type switch in the
mouse model of ALS. Milligan said positive results in the study could provide
the first step toward a clinical trial of AICAR for treating ALS symptoms.
“The Blazeman Foundation for
ALS provides funds to explore new ideas,” Milligan said. “They are, without a
doubt, laying a foundation for large advancements in understanding the disease
and the development of effective therapeutics.”
Milligan said researchers
working on ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases often lack the funding
needed to obtain preliminary data. She said the grant addresses that need,
which will make it easier to secure additional funding from other sources and
promote further research.
“This preliminary data is
essential to provide evidence of the merit of the new idea that can then be
used to obtain more funding to support the larger study that must precede a
clinical trial,” she said.
If the first phase of the
research is successful, the Blazeman Foundation will provide the additional
$11,000 to continue the research.
The foundation was created
by the late Jonathan "Blazeman" Blais, an elite athlete and
multi-sport competitor who was diagnosed with ALS in 2005 at age 33. Five
months after being diagnosed, he became the only individual with ALS to
complete an Ironman triathlon, finishing in 16:28:56. He crossed the finish
line by log-rolling over it, and since then, the "log roll" has been
performed by countless athletes as a symbol of hope and as a means of raising
awareness for ALS.
Blais’ parents, Bob and Mary
Ann Blais, now run the foundation, based in Seekonk, Mass. They coordinate Team
Blazeman, a nationwide team of multi-sport athletes who help carry out the
foundation’s mission. As team members, known as “Blazeman Warriors,” train and
race, they raise awareness and funds for cutting-edge scientific research to
find treatments and an eventual cure for ALS.
The Blais family said
contributions to the foundation from the Rohto
Ironman 70.3 Miami, an Ironman event, helped provide funds for the
current grant to support Milligan’s research.
“Without the support of this
event, we would not been able to fund this important research this soon,” Bob
Blais said. “Jon felt strongly that the multi-sport community would play an
important role in finding, at minimum, an effective treatment for ALS at its
early stage. This study at Wake Forest Baptist hopefully will lead to that
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