Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Today I spoke in the Legislature about an exciting discovery relating to ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease:

“A team of researchers from the University of British Columbia's Brain Research Centre and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority Research Institute have found a key link between prions and the neurodegenerative disease ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

“ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die, resulting in paralysis and death. Approximately 3,000 Canadians live with this fatal disease, for which there's no effective treatment. Every day two or three Canadians die of ALS.

“The discovery is significant, as it opens the door to novel approaches to the treatment of ALS. The findings provide a molecular explanation for the progressive spread of ALS through the nervous system and highlight the central role of the propagation of misfolded proteins in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disease, including ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

“The work has identified a specific molecular target which, when manipulated, halts the conversion of a particular protein to a misfolded, disease-causing form. A protein's failure to adopt the correct structure is what threatens the health of cells.

“This discovery is the first step towards the development of targeted treatments that may stop the progression of ALS.

“I'd like to dedicate my remarks this afternoon to Greg Fraser, a wonderful Richmond teacher who lost his battle to ALS, and to Dr. Neil Cashman and his colleagues in British Columbia and Alberta, for the contributions they have made. They have found a key piece to help guide the research community to solutions, Mr. Speaker, and we are indeed grateful.”

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