MDA has awarded a research grant totaling $429,983 over three years to Don Cleveland, departmental chair of cellular and molecular medicine; professor of medicine, neurosciences, and cellular and molecular medicine; and member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in La Jolla, Calif. The funds will help support Cleveland’s research into the connection between mitochondria and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease).
Mitochondria, the intracellular compartments that consume oxygen to produce chemical fuel that supports the cell, have been implicated as targets for toxicity in the inherited, SOD1-associated forms of ALS.
It is not known, however, in which cell types of the nervous system mitochondrial damage occurs, whether the ensuing mitochondrial dysfunctions are a cause or a consequence of neuronal degeneration during the disease and if the effects are the same in SOD1-associated ALS caused by different SOD1 mutations.
Using mice that are genetic mimics of inherited, SOD1-related ALS, Cleveland intends to determine at what disease stage and in which cell types of the central nervous system mitochondrial dysfunction occurs, and whether rescue of individual mitochondrial functions or an increase in mitochondrial activity may alter the ALS disease course.
“This comparative analysis will, in principle, provide a test for whether mitochondria are a common target of toxicity,” Cleveland said.
Funding for this MDA grant began August 1, 2011.