Making an impact

Through the help of the Bonasera family and supporters of the Julie Bonasera ALS Fund, Stephen J. Kolb, MD, PhD, and his team of scientists are shaping the future of research for ALS and other motor neuron diseases.

Dr. Kolb, Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology and the Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology, and his research team consider themselves a conduit between the patient and the innovative research that they and strong group of collaborators are conducting to find treatments for ALS.

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With the help of funding stemming from the Bonasera Fund, Dr. Kolb's lab is focused on the basic science of ALS and other motor neuron diseases to create effective model systems and to learn more about onset of the disease.

“In neurological diseases and with ALS in particular, it is harder to model the disease as you would, for example, model cancer. Cancer cells, in general, multiply and grow readily in the lab, whereas in motor neuron diseases, there is a death of cells which presents challenges that must be addressed with new technologies. We have to be more creative in our approach,” explains Dr. Kolb. “We are currently impotent to stop the progression of disease, as there is currently no effective therapy to reverse it. We are very passionate about the clinical management of the disease, however it is the research that will ultimately provide answers to transform how we treat it.”

Dr. Kolb and his team are now working on several new projects in hopes of providing more answers and ultimately more hope for patients with ALS. One project, in collaboration with Dr. Brian Kaspar, is to collect and analyze cerebral spinal fluid from patients to identify toxic soluble factors. By identifying toxic soluble factors, more information on the onset of ALS can be determined. This project holds great potential and promise.

ALS Lab

Looking ahead, Dr. Kolb is optimistic about his lab’s work and how it can improve lives.

“The overall message is one of hope. The technologies that have been developed over the past five years to model neurological diseases and to alter gene expression in neurons are leading to results. If we can continue to translate research to patient care, the momentum will only continue.”

Dr. Kolb is building on current research to bring gene therapy clinical trials to Ohio State. These trials will give his team the ability to alter gene expression in motor neurons, which may provide another treatment option for patients. This effort is being expedited with the backing of the Bonasera Family and the work the Julie Bonasera ALS Fund is currently supporting.

“Having this support—and this is true for all philanthropic support—allows us to initiate and complete innovative projects and even think about doing work that is more risky but that may have a potentially higher reward. In a climate where NIH and other funding is waning, having this support allows us to do things that will make a bigger impact,” says Dr. Kolb.

He goes on to say, “People should be very psyched about what is taking place at Ohio State for ALS. But it will take another level of support to elevate our research. Our goal is to provide our patients with targeted gene therapy clinic trials. We need more support.”

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