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ALS Alert Newsletter

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Aug 10
2020

Packard awards grant to fund study of microglia in ALS/FTD

Note:  This grant was made possible by a generous donation from The Bruce Edwards Foundation.

The Packard Center has recently awarded a $50,000 research grant to Justin Ichida, Ph.D. (University of Southern California) and Rita Sattler, Ph.D. (Barrow Neurological Institute) to study the role of microglial cells in neuronal dysfunction in individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) caused by mutations in the C9orf72 (C9) gene.

Ichida and Sattler’s project aims to identify the mechanisms and specific pathways through which microglia contribute to the neuronal degeneration observed in C9 ALS/FTD patients. The project will test the hypothesis that microglial cells contribute to neuronal function in patients carrying the C9 mutation. Sattler and Ichida will use patient-derived human induced pluripotent stem cell models to co-culture microglial cells and neurons derived from C9 ALS/FTD patients. This cellular model will enable scientists to understand how microglial cells affect neuronal function and survival, whether microglial activation is a downstream process of neuronal degeneration or whether these cells actively contribute to the degeneration of cortical neurons observed in C9 ALS/FTD. Their goal is to understand how microglia alter disease progression and identify ways to enhance the beneficial effects of these cells while neutralizing disease-promoting features. Further experiments will reveal if these interactions can be targeted therapeutically.

"Microglia are the immune cells of the brain and spinal cord. The neuron-microglia model system that Dr. Sattler and Dr. Ichida are developing will help scientists examine how communication between these two cell types ultimately influences neuronal survival in the context of C9 ALS/FTD. We are pleased to support this important work,” said Emily Baxi, Ph.D., the Center’s executive director.

“The Packard Center funds some of the most innovative and impactful ALS research in the world,” noted Ichida. “Joining the Packard Center network and receiving their support will undoubtedly accelerate our ability to develop new treatment strategies for ALS patients.”