Tag Archives: news

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ALS-New-Drug: New-Scam?

UPDATE – June 29, 2016: Apparently the site is back and whining that ALS Untangled is somehow responsible for them losing “charitable funding”. ALS Untangled had nothing to do with RCH4 except having asked me to take the lead in gathering information about it from the provider and from patients. My initial assessment was indeed made quickly but was based on all the information currently available, and was made based on my decades of expert professional experience in identifying Internet scams. There is currently zero scientific evidence for any of the claims made of that website and the provider has been given multiple ongoing opportunities to back up the claims with objective evidence. I never made any claim of “criminality” – rather I feel that something is not right and that PALS should avoid injecting themselves with a completely anonymous substance.

UPDATE – May 12, 2016: Apparently the domain owner, Michael Richards, pulled the site and folded up his tent. No idea what he told “his patients”. I have absolutely no guilt over this. If all it took was one person questioning the veracity of that RCH4 whateveritwas to make him pull up stakes, then there was nothing worth putting hope into in the first place.

UPDATE: If anyone has attempted to obtain this drug and have retained emails or postal letters, please contact me so I can investigate further.

BREAKING NEWS! (April 14, 2016)

I was just alerted to a website advertising a new treatment for ALS (http://als-new-drug.com – text provided for reference but no link for reader safety). The site purports to represent a “group of retired scientists and doctors” in Europe who “discovered a previously unknown protein … which promotes ALS” and “designed a drug which safely stops production of the problem protein”. The site provides no references for the protein and a web search of the name given provides no relevant returns. The same goes for the given name of the drug. Neither is any information given about exactly who comprises this group so that their qualifications may be examined.

Domain information is:
Domain Name: ALS-NEW-DRUG.COM
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.publicdomainregistry.com
Registrar URL: Updated> Date: 2015-09-04T02:32:35Z
Creation Date: 2015-07-05T10:28:14Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2016-07-05T10:28:14Z
Registrar: PDR Ltd. d/b/a PublicDomainRegistry.com
Registrant Name: Michael Richards
Registrant Organization: Not Applicable
Registrant Street: 56, Amanda Close
Registrant City: Chigwell
Registrant State/Province: Essex
Registrant Postal Code: IG7 5JG
Registrant Country: GB
Registrant Phone: +7.981150350
Registrant Email: privacy@wzukltd.com

This raises a number of red flags and identifies it as a likely scam:

  1. There’s no identification of the “scientists” behind this
  2. There are no links to publications about the protein
  3. There are no links to publications about this new drug.
  4. The website is cheap, poorly-designed, and unprofessional.
  5. The website is registered to an individual in Great Britain with an obscured contact email address.
  6. The website is clearly designed to create anxiety in the reader about “missing out”, thereby making the reader immediately more amenable to the presumably eventual sales pitch for the “immensely expensive” drug.

Without any evidence of efficacy, safety, or even the ingredients of this substance, I would very very strongly urge everyone to ignore this website completely.

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Icebreaker

My readers know that I have serious differences with the ALS Association (ALSA). However, my promise to deliver the truth (though bathed in hope in the delivery) cuts both ways. When something good happens, no matter who is behind it, I must give kudos to the deserving.

The 2014 social media phenomenon known as the Ice Bucket Challenge marked a seminal moment in the history of public awareness of ALS and in funding for research. Since then, PALS have been demanding that ALSA actually use that money rather than sitting on it. It now appears that ALSA is finally indeed mobilizing a little of that money (about $3M or 2.5%) on two wise and popular targets. This is good news, although there is a slight catch…

ALSA is helping fund a Phase 3 of the Cytokinetics drug tirasemtiv and a Phase 2B of Neuraltus’ drug NP001. Tirasemtiv is a muscular activator, meaning it causes the muscles to react more strongly than normal to a neural input. Tirasemtiv does nothing to halt the death of the motor neurons, but it can let PALS have more independence for longer than without it. NP001 is a highly purified and pH-balanced form of sodium chlorite that reverts the chronic inflammatory attack on the neurons back to a pro-growth state. Some of you might remember our dear departed friends Rob Tison and Ben Harris who experienced remarkable results during the Phase 2A. Now we know why: Based on inflammatory biomarkers discovered in post-hoc analysis, Neuraltus believes it has found a responder subgroup and is restricting the Phase 2B to those patients. I expect very good news from the 2B.

[UPDATE (07-13-2015) From my friend Jenica Lancy at ALSA GoldenWest: Today, The ALS Association announced its support of 58 new research grants totaling $11,621,638 to find treatments and a cure for ALS. The research awards announced today include investigator-initiated grants, drug development contracts, Milton Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowships and support of the NEALS/TREAT ALS™ Clinical Trials Network. You can see a full list of the grants here.]

Now for the catch: What ALSA is really doing is funding operations at one of the clinics which promote and direct funding toward ALSA. Both trials will be conducted by that clinic (the excellent Forbes-Norris ALS Clinic in San Francisco).

However, the fact remains that ALSA is supporting two very promising clinical trials. Some of us might wish they would do more, sooner, but they are moving in the right direction. I believe the proper response should be “Thanks! Keep it up!”. Let’s all applaud ALSA and encourage further progress along this path.

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Hope Now for ALS

There has been a lot of recent controversy surrounding the experimental treatment in clinical trials known as GM604. A lot of misinformation has been tossed around on both sides of the issue. I want to beg your attention for a little while to explain what’s really going on.

First, as many of you know, I was the single late-stage PALS who received GM6 in compassionate use. The intent behind this was to get a look at differences in biomarker candidate levels between earlier-stage and late-stage PALS. Any outward physical manifestation of improved condition noticed would be a bonus and, due to my advanced condition, no improvement in condition was expected. Nevertheless, Genervon and I came up with the idea to try to chart improvements in the tongue. The rationale is that since my tongue is only moderately affected, and because the hypoglossal nerve contains one of the shortest motor neurons in the body, any possible improvement would be noticed there first.

Because of my growing cooperative relationship with Genervon dating back to my first blog post on GM6, I was granted the only Expanded Access outside of trial. They were interested in getting a look at GM6 behavior in late-stage PALS and I had proven to them my organizational skills in preparing my own medical surveillance team and in communications by preparing the mechanism for data capture. Even a single Expanded Access Program can be a burden on such a small company not optimized for such work. My knowledge and experience gained over the past few years was of considerable help in filling out and transmitting (and following up on) my own paperwork.

Thousands of single Expanded Access requests would be overly burdensome and even if Genervon enlisted the help of the ALS Emergency Treatment Fund, the maximum number of patients who would be able to participate would be measured in the few hundreds. Not only would patients have to pay for drug but would also have to pay for their own medical surveillance team and at least one hospital visit for the first infusion (this alone represents several thousand dollars). If you are required to give biological samples, the cost tops $10,000.

Genervon shared with me much of the top-level data from the Phase 2 to compare against my own data. Even though the trial population was small, the data were stronger in separation between treatment/placebo cohorts than in any legitimate trial results I had seen before. And GM6 was demonstrated safe over a much larger group spread over three different neurological diseases (including ALS) plus a healthy safety group. For these reasons I suggested to and worked with Genervon on applying for the FDA Accelerated Approval Program in order to get GM6 to all PALS paid for by insurance and Medicare.

And thus began the shitstorm…

Researchers, neurologists, and leaders of certain advocacy organizations who believe in the FDA’s 60 year old regulatory formula – comprised of designing, completing, and analyzing Phase 1, 2, 3 trials over a period of 5-15 years – are failing in their proclaimed mission. They simply have to stop regarding patients as helpless victims willing to eat rat poison if someone said it cured ALS, Genervon as somehow the 19th Century snake oil salesman, and themselves as the White Knight riding to our rescue. The very process of obtaining an experimental drug requires a lot of medical oversight, which we appreciate and rely on. However, patients are intelligent adults whose only desire is to change the status quo of scientific research for the benefit of both the current and future generations of PALS.

The 1992 FDA Accelerated Approval Program (AAP) was designed to meet the needs of patient populations where there is an urgent and unmet need. In 2012, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA), strengthening the agency’s ability to advance public health by equipping the FDA with tools intended to expedite the development and review of innovative new medicines that address certain unmet medical needs. Among the objectives, Title IX expanded the scope of products that qualify for accelerated approval. Specific language in this law states that the FDA is to incorporate novel approaches to the review of surrogate endpoints based on pathophysiologic and pharmacologic evidence in such guidance, especially in instances where the low prevalence of a disease renders the existence or collection of other types of data unlikely or impractical. It is obvious that Congress and the President had in mind diseases just like ALS when passing and signing FDASIA into law, yet the FDA has done very little to incorporate these guidelines.

With Congress now discussing the 21st Century Cures Act, we at Hope Now for ALS believe that we are on the right side of history by insisting that PALS are given opportunities to access new investigational treatments through the FDA’s Accelerated Approval Program which, with its requirement for post-marketing Phase 4 data surveillance to confirm efficacy and safety, will continue to provide invaluable data on new treatments for ALS. As most patients are ineligible for standard clinical trials, this is our only option to contribute to research that will provide the same data at a faster rate among a larger population of patients – providing much needed data on subsets of the patient population. The Phase 4 requirements of Accelerated Approval also have the ability to save billions of dollars in research that is better spent developing more new and better investigational treatments for a myriad of neurological conditions.

I will grant that the biomarker candidates are new and not yet “proven”, but FDA did allow them as endpoints in the Phase 2. They are not brand-new fabrications by Genervon and are backed by a lot of recent research by respected researchers. And they were all quite uniform in response to GM6 while the placebo group all continued in the abnormal direction. In my n=1 case report the biomarker candidates sometimes went in the reverse direction, but ALWAYS TOWARD NORMAL LEVELS. This is a great indication that GM6 promotes neuronal homeostasis – the holy grail for ALS research.

The Phase 2 was indeed also only a very small population, and in previous ALS trials of similar size it was impossible to collect reliable efficacy data in such a small cohort. However, this trial was very different from previous trials. The effect registered was much larger than in previous such trials (especially dexpramipexole) and was backed up by multiple secondary measurements not subject to any placebo effect. The combination of surprisingly-large effect size and objective biological markers sets this aside from previous trials (which also used the ALSFRS almost exclusively). There was an erroneous though well-intentioned attempt to use the released FVC information as evidence of poor trial design. However, the comparison used a very inappropriate analogy population and was built on an assumption based on incorrect data.

I do have serious issues with a point used in arguments against GM6: The lithium debacle. The media reports which came out obviously created a lot of excitement within the patient community. Our first reaction was asking and pleading the research community to quickly follow up with more trials to confirm that study and the response from the research committee was absolute disinterest. Therefore the patient community took it upon themselves to create a verification study, which we did. We did *NOT* merely go out and start using lithium off-label. In fact, it was only after our trial data was being released that the research community decided to do a confirmation study. By then we had already demonstrated that lithium had no effect in ALS and begged the research community to not waste time and millions of dollars.

But again, the research community ignored the patient community.

The Hope Now for ALS movement isn’t for GM6 to skip the regulatory process. It’s to get FDA to use its existing programs and Congressional mandate to provide potentially life-saving treatment to PALS. This is especially important now that truly-effective treatments are very near (including NP001, Neurown, etc.). Caution is obviously warranted but ALS is a race against a clock that doesn’t care. More aggressive strategy is thus required which necessitates a little less caution and a lot more courage.

In summary, the facts are:

  • Genervon asked FDA for Accelerated Approval at the post-Phase 2 meeting where they presented the complete trial data plus the case report for my Compassionate Use project. I know this to be true because I co-wrote the cover letter to the data package and it specifically asked for Accelerated Approval (and it was me who urged Genervon to pursue AAP).
  • The FDA should have responded with specific instructions on how to file. They did not and thus we were all left in a state of confusion. Then FDA took the unusual step of calling on Genervon to publicly release proprietary data. Genervon has no duty to do so and FDA has no authority to make such a request.
  • Genervon has perfectly complied with law and regulation. All they want is to help and they believe GM6 can do that. The data so far looks good (and I can say that, having actually seen it where all others commenting otherwise have not). It’s not a slam-dunk, but it’s positive and safe enough that I think all PALS should have access to it – not just those eligible for clinical trial.
  • The FDA Accelerated Approval Program, in place since 1992 to deal with fatal diseases for which no other treatments exist, is the best way to save lives. It opens access WHILE CLINICAL TRIALS STILL CONTINUE. It’s used for cancer and other diseases with less-severe prognosis. Why not ALS?
  • GM6 has a perfect safety record in over 50 patients across 3 separate neurological conditions plus a healthy initial safety cohort.
  • This is about patients deciding for themselves what risk to take in treatment. This is NOT about a company trying to avoid the clinical trial process or enrich itself on patients desperation. The AAP is an existing program which gives patients access to potentially life-saving treatment while collecting the valuable efficacy data.
  • Contrast Genervon’s completely legal and transparent actions to other companies marketing unproven products such as lunasin and aimspro directly to patients using email. Those companies use slick pitches with “proof” based purely on non-accepted metrics and anecdotes.
  • The movement behind GM6 is entirely grassroots.

The above are facts. All of the “expert opinion” going around is just biased speculation.

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Condition Green

As many of you might already know, I was the late-stage PALS mentioned in the recent Genervon press release. I got interested in this drug some time ago, did some research on it and wrote a blog post about it. I had contacted the company, Genervon, to get information for my post. Thereafter, a dialogue was maintained regarding clinical trial status and future development plans. Being that I am a late stage PALS and still extremely active in awareness, advocacy, and science, they agreed to my request for compassionate use. It was another 9 months going through the process of authorization (mostly because my local hospital had never done anything like this before and together we created a new protocol).

During that time the Phase 2A results came out and I was given access to some of the data. Those, combined with my own experience, gave me the satisfaction that this drug was safe and quite likely effective. I share the concerns about trial size, but like all PALS am concerned for the time required to go through the usual phases of clinical trials. The clinical trial program actually has four parts:

  • Phase 1 – single dose usually in healthy subjects for gauging safety
  • Phase 2 – use in actual patients looking at safety and initial efficacy
  • Phase 3 – larger patient population with different doses, efficacy and SAEs
  • Phase 4 – market surveillance for adverse events

Not only does it take time to fully enroll and execute a large clinical trial but it takes even more time to secure the funding necessary to begin each phase. This is especially true in this current era of venture capital avoiding biotech investment.

I have helped launch other initiatives to get PALS access to experimental treatments. It is critical that patients get more than one or perhaps two chances at early access to treatment while they are newly diagnosed. Drugs that are possibly effective must be made broadly available to patients who are facing otherwise-certain death. Based on the safety and the indication of efficacy in GM6 (mainly borne of my personal experience), I got behind the effort to seek what FDA calls Accelerated Approval so that many more PALS can try it and see where it takes us. Accelerated Approval requires full data surveillance for efficacy, not just serious adverse events (SAEs). The efficacy data determines whether final approval is made. Basically, Accelerated Approval is like a Phase 3 where patients/insurance pay for participation. I believe all PALS would gladly participate in such a program.

If the wider data don’t support the continued use of GM6 I will be the first to admit it. But right now I believe GM6 has the capability to effectively treat ALS in a way no previous drug ever has. And I want to get that opportunity as quickly as possible to as many PALS as possible.

After publishing the press release and posting it on social media and online forums, another PALS started a petition to the FDA to demonstrate the support in the ALS Community for this Accelerated Approval. I would like to urge all who are concerned about ALS – PALS/CALS/Friends – to sign this petition and share it among your social circles. At that link you can sign the petition and post comments to be included with your name. You can also find links to email Senators who oversee FDA and proposed text for those messages.

It is imperative that the comments left on the petition signatures be respectful. FDA isn’t the enemy. They really would like nothing better than to approve a treatment for ALS but need the data to support it. I think we have the data because even though the population was small, the slope of decline as measured by the ALSFRS-R was reduced significantly during the short treatment window. Also, certain biomarker candidates were tracked and correlated with progression. Nevertheless, FDA has to be very careful with the precedent it sets so we as patients must be partners with them in these decisions.

My own experience with GM6 has been positive. The worst part of the entire project was getting the PICC line and the lumbar punctures for CSF samples to make biomarker measurements. I experienced absolutely no adverse events related to the drug. Insofar as benefits, I must admit that the small gains in function noted in the press release are most likely due to surviving neurons branching out new axon terminals to cover the neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) abandoned by the dying motor neurons affected by ALS. GM6 will NOT regrow dead motor neurons. However, it does induce healing in injured ones. In my case, I probably don’t have many injured motor neurons – most of mine are gone. But people who are more recently diagnosed have a higher chance of regaining some lost function in addition to stopping progression.

Based on the information I have seen and my own positive experience, along with the considerable (at best) delay in commencing a larger Phase 2 or 3 trial, I think GM6 deserves Accelerated Approval. I also think this could set a beneficial precedent for future drugs which show similar safety and efficacy signals in early trials. Hence my hope for GM6 getting into the larger population of PALS.

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Pot Luck

An article appeared on social media about a group of parents using cannabidiol (CBD) for their children’s epilepsy. Unlike the usual reports of people using marijuana and subjectively reporting “improvements”, this group of patient advocates went and filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) with the FDA. Don’t get me wrong – I support the medical (and recreational) use of marijuana, but heretofore the real scientific data available has been extremely thin. Rather than going on Silk Road to get a bunch of medicine then post wonderful stories on social media, this group created a real clinical trial in cooperation with FDA and a company named GW Pharmaceuticals which supplied a pure oil formulation of CBD. This is a very important development in patient-driven access to investigational drugs. Far better than the usual DIY projects (even the handful started by yours truly), this type of project can deliver real, verifiable, and scientifically-accepted results.

The body contains cannabinoid receptors both in the CNS and periphery. The most well-known cannabinoid ligand is THC (a CB1 agonist) which is responsible for the euphoric psychoactive effect in marijuana. Both natural and synthetic cannabinoids long been of interest in treating disease. What’s of most interest in medicine are the anti-inflammatory effects of CB2 agonists such as cannabidiol or CBD. Endogenous CB2 receptors are upregulated in the spinal cords of SOD1 transgenic mice. CBD agonists show symptomatic improvement in several inflammatory diseases. There is evidence that CB2 receptors are upregulated in response to the inflammatory microglial activation in ALS. Several studies have shown that CB2 agonists have a beneficial effect in transgenic SOD1 mice. This data shows that more work, perhaps in in human patients, is warranted.

Alternative medicine is very popular in the ALS Community because, frankly, there is nothing currently available proven to extend the lives of PALS. Unfortunately most experiments are done without adequate objective observation and recording of data. Instead all that is reported are vague descriptions of improvement, skewing any rational perception of the particular alternative medicine. This causes more desperate patients to attempt the alternative with the same lack of adequate reporting.

This post, however, is not about calling for an IND for CBD (which would nevertheless be a good idea). The point here is to spotlight that a group of patients and/or advocates got together to do an experiment outside of an institutional clinical trial. They led the way and did it themselves while preserving the valuable objective data. They created their own hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. This is the ultimate expression of DIY Medicine, done properly and openly. Any other method is a waste of time, money, and health.

There is actually much more opportunity than just experiments with speculative alternative medicine. Hope exists for the approximately 60% of living PALS who don’t qualify for clinical trials. That hope is the FDA Expanded Access Program (EAP). PALS should request EAPs for those investigational treatments which have passed the Phase 2 endpoint requirements of safety and suggested efficacy. Furthermore, they should support efforts to bring EAPs to the ALS Community. Living, even for the healthy, requires hope. We, the ALS Community, like everything else we have accomplished, must create our own hope by being pioneers and responsible citizen scientists.

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Carpe Fragments

In the developing embryo, motor neurons develop and nearly half preferentially die prior to birth (Henderson, et al., 1997, “Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF/SF) is a muscle-derived survival factor for a subpopulation of embryonic motoneurons”). As shown in Forger, et al., 2001 (“Blockade of Endogenous Neurotrophic Factors Prevents the Androgenic Rescue of Rat Spinal Motoneurons”), loss of muscular targets also leads to post-natal motor neuron degeneration. Post-natal mice engineered to have degenerated muscle spindles exhibit ataxia and resting tremors, indicating a decrease in proprioception due to loss of sensory-motor synapses (Frank, et al., 2002, “Muscle Spindle-Derived Neurotrophin 3 Regulates Synaptic Connectivity between Muscle Sensory and Motor Neurons”).

One interesting factor seems to suggest a link with testosterone in preserving motor neurons, which could be a possible explanation for the statistically higher numbers of men affected in middle-age or above, and that of women in post-menopause, when hormone levels experience radical shift. Indeed, Cilliary Neurotrophic Factor, a potent motor neuron trophic factor, is regulated by gonadal hormones (Forger, et al., 1998, “Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor Receptor in Spinal Motoneurons is Regulated by Gonadal Hormones”).

Leaving aside the question of hormone levels, there is much evidence that muscle-derived neurotrophic factors are necessary for the health and survival of the motor neurons. One in particular, Motoneuronotrophic Factor 1 (MNTF1), appears essential to this critical process. Experiments in Wobbler mice show that motor neuron disease increases as MNTF1 levels decrease (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10453487). MNTF1 was first described in the early 90s, and the human form was successfully cloned as an artificial protein. Various fragments were extracted and shown to have neurotrophic effect.

Two overlapping domains of a 33 amino acid fragment of MNTF1, dubbed the Fred and Wilma domains, are sufficient to stimulate motor neuroprotection in a manner similar to the whole 33 amino acid MNTF1 fragment. The Fred domain is sufficient to direct selective reinnervation of muscle targets by motor neurons in vivo in a manner similar to the 33 amino acid MNTF1 fragment. A recombinant protein containing the Fred domain maintained motoneuron viability, increased neurite outgrowth, reduced motoneuron cell death/apoptosis and supported the growth and spreading of motoneurons into giant, active neurons with extended growth cone-containing axons.

For those curious about the amino acids in each domain, please refer to the image below:

Genervon has patented these fragments and is using them in a Phase 2-A clinical trial in ALS.

From the above it is quite possible that at least some forms of ALS are caused by a sort of a muscular dystrophy (not to be confused with the distinct condition by that name). It therefore stands to reason that there is reason for hope that some will benefit. The standard caveat of basic and preclinical research often not translating to human trials obviously applies. However, we are entering an exciting time where extremely potent shots are being taken at more fundamental aspects of ALS. One or a combination seem likely to have the effect we have been waiting for.

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The ALSETF

As my readers may know, my posts this year have been a little farther and further between. I have been working on some projects. Hopefully one or more can make a real difference for PALS. It’s time to talk about one of these projects: The ALS Emergency Treatment Fund.

The ALSETF is about bringing treatments in late development (post-Phase 2) to ALS patients. Right now there is no hope for the majority of living patients because over 50% do not qualify for clinical trials. For a newly diagnosed patient, the odds of living to see a drug approved which is starting trials at the same time is about 10% (actually much less considering the historical approval rate of ALS treatments). However, with recent advances into the nature of ALS, certain drugs have been developed which show real promise for treating at least a subset of PALS. More are planned to enter trials in the United States very soon. We at ALSETF mean to get that hope ASAP to PALS who are currently living.

ALSETF is a 501C3 non-profit organization with the mission to partner with government and industry agencies to enable Expanded Access Programs. Expanded Access Programs (EAPs) are FDA authorized programs that permit the use of yet-unapproved drugs under medical supervision, in specific cases where those drugs are in late stages of development and have shown preliminary evidence of safety and efficacy. EAPs are only for immediately life threatening conditions for which no effective approved therapies exist. We have open communication with the FDA’s Office of Neurology products for guidance on EAPs involving investigational drugs for ALS. We also maintain open discussion with clinical leaders on the best practices for EAPs, as well as with certain pharmaceutical companies with drugs in trial and in the pipeline.

Our focus right now is to raise up to $5M to help fund certain costs of an EAP such as upgrading manufacturing to clinical-grade, production quantity necessary for fulfilling EAP demand, etc. These are all issues which can currently prevent a pharmaceutical company (especially the small start-ups likely to take a chance on ALS) from accommodating a large EAP. We believe the financial issues can be solved and that the drugs being talked about with excitement in the ALS community can be brought to those who don’t qualify for trials now, while they are still living.

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Under Press-Sure

Over the past two weeks ALS has gotten some much-needed national coverage, first from the Wall Street Journal followed shortly by ABC News. I also just completed the first round of questions for an article due to appear in July in the-scientist.com. More opportunities seem to be materializing and I will do my best to keep the momentum going to keep the message of ALS in front of the public. I would like to call upon everyone to contact their local press, mention the WSJ and ABC News articles, and tell them YOUR stories. If you think it would help to mention a relationship to me, do so and I will back you.

There were a few points in the articles that I wanted to clarify:

  • I did not design the computer I use. It is a TabletKiosk Sahara Slate PC i440T with a Point Grey Flea-2 CCD camera with an infrared light and lense. The system uses the ERICA software made by Eye Response Technologies (since purchased by DynaVox). The only part of the computer I modified was my work environment and I installed certain programs and utilities which I use. I did help design the overhead mount which slides along the overhead track I use for my lift.
  • NP001 is indeed sodium chlorite, but when ingested orally the acid in the stomach breaks down most of it. The most optimistic data I have seen (based on rats exposed to it in drinking water) is a maximum 30% reaching the bloodstream. I would expect that to be less, and to be variable, in most people.
  • Because NP001 is already in clinical trial, I arranged the project more as an “early access” model with data-keeping as secondary.
  • I have three criteria for any such projects:
    • drug must be relatively safe
    • drug must be inexpensive
    • drug must be legal to obtain

It’s very important to me that I don’t recklessly put other PALS in physical, financial, or legal jeopardy with any project. My intention is to help not harm. We all already have enough problems to deal with.

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Old Tricks

Something very intriguing came in over the weekend from PLoSONE. It was a study comparing neuromuscular junctions between age and ALS. It turns out that the same muscles susceptible to denervation in ALS are likewise susceptible to denervation with age. Autonomic muscles (those that act without your conscious input) and muscles innervated directly from the brain (eg your eyes and certain facial muscles) are extraordinarily resistant to age- and ALS-related denervation. Something that struck me was the finding that TDP43 was mislocalized in aged motor neurons very similarly to ALS motor neurons. TDP43 is normally found in the nucleus but in ALS it is found in the cytoplasm where it is cleaved by caspases and a 25 kilodalton fragment aggregates in a form that apparently gains a toxic function.

TDP43 mislocalization has also been found by the symptomatic phase in the SOD1 mouse model (although earlier and more recent reports are somewhat contradictory on this point). Another protein found upregulated in the SOD1 mouse is CRMP4a, a subprotien of the CRMP family. CRMP4 is normally involved in learning, neurite outgrowth, and building functional circuitry within the brain. However, the Duplan, et al., 2010 study referenced above found upregulation or overexpression of CRMP4a is deadly specific to motor neurons. In the subject study of this post, Valdez, et al., 2012, CRMP4a was also found upregulated in the same types of motor neurons of normally-aged mice as those which degenerate in ALS mice. CRMPs are known to change due to age.

Inflammation is present in all neurodegenerative diseases. One of the primary drivers of ALS is thought to be neuroinflammation. Multiple animal models of ALS, including data in humans, show neuroinflammation. As the subject study shows, TDP43 and CRMP4 is upregulated in both aging and ALS. Taking one step further, aging and ALS have another thing in common: Inflammation.