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Advancing the field of ALS research with focused ultrasound

February 11, 2022

Congratulations to the team of Sunnybrook researchers Drs. Agessandro Abrahao, Lorne Zinman, Nir Lipsman, Kullervo Hynynen, Isabelle Aubert, Sonam Dubey, Simon Graham, and Jamie Near on receiving one of nine Discovery Grants from ALS Canada and Brain Canada.

The Sunnybrook team, along with Drs. Sanjay Kalra and Kelvin Jones, from the University of Alberta, is receiving $125,000 for their work exploring image-guided focused ultrasound technology and how this innovation can help in the delivery of promising new therapies for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) directly to the brain.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressively debilitating motor neuron disease. Over time, people living with ALS eventually lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, move and breathe. It’s estimated 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS. The cause of ALS is unknown and there is no cure.

The Discovery Grants "bring together multidisciplinary teams of research experts to investigate critical areas of disease processes and clinical care”. The official news release also notes that the “projects funded include fundamental laboratory research to identify new biological targets for ALS therapies; clinical research to identify biomarkers that could help to improve clinical research and care, and a clinical trial to test a new means of delivering ALS therapies.”

In 2018, Sunnybrook researchers were the first in the world to investigate the safety of focused ultrasound in opening the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in participants diagnosed with ALS. The BBB is a layer of cells around the brain that protects it from toxins and other compounds. By opening the BBB using focused ultrasound, promising ALS therapeutics could be delivered directly to the brain, which will be an exciting next step for this team of researchers and clinicians.


Read more about the Discovery Grants from ALS Canada and Brain Canada.