Xin Wang, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $405,000 over a period of three years to identify and test novel drug candidates for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The need for new drugs in ALS is clear, Wang says, because the only drug approved for the disease is riluzole, which extends survival on average by only about three months.
Preliminary evidence suggests that increased cellular signaling of the melatonin system may be neuroprotective. Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, binds to the melatonin receptor 1A (MT1). Wang will test the hypothesis that increased stimulation of MT1 will slow disease development and progression. Her work will involve identifying compounds called MT1 agonists that bind to and stimulate the receptor. She will then test these agonists in cell culture and in a mouse model of ALS.
Funding for this MDA grant began Feb. 1, 2013.