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Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that gradually causes paralysis because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the body’s muscles. The brain is connected to the muscles through millions of nerve cells called motor neurons. The brain sends a signal through the motor neurons telling a muscle to contract. In ALS, motor neurons gradually weaken and die. As the muscles break down, a person with ALS loses the ability to walk, talk, eat and, eventually, breathe. There is no cure for ALS. About 80% of people with ALS die within five years of being diagnosed.

In 2018, Sunnybrook researchers launched the world’s first trial to test the safety and feasibility of opening the blood-brain barrier using focused ultrasound in people with ALS. The device used during the procedure is based on a technology pioneered by Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of Physical Sciences at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI). The system pairs focused ultrasound with MRI to guide and monitor delivery.

Dr. Lorne Zinman, a scientist at SRI and a neurologist at Sunnybrook, is leading the trial. For more information, visit the clinicaltrials.gov website: NCT03321487.