Study to Probe Oxidative Stress in People With ALS

by Margaret Wahl on Mon, 2010-07-26 16:56

Participants are being sought for a 12-center study that will follow people with ALS over time to examine relationships between the disease and oxidative stress

Article Highlights:
  • Participants are now being recruited for a new large-scale study that will probe the relationship between oxidative stress, a cell-damaging phenomenon, and the ALS disease process, with an eye to treatment development.
  • The study has support from MDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Oxidative stress results from an excess of toxic byproducts of cellular energy production and is believed to be a contributing factor in ALS.
  • More than 400 people with a recent ALS diagnosis will be followed through time. The study is recruiting now.

More than 400 people who recently received an ALS diagnosis are being sought for a large study of a cell-damaging phenomenon called "oxidative stress," common in ALS and other degenerative diseases.

Oxidative stress is a type of damage that results from high levels of toxic byproducts of energy production inside cells. These toxic chemicals — known as free radicals — normally are present, but when they're produced in excess or when cells become unable to detoxify them, they become dangerous.

About the new study

The investigators, supported by MDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are seeking to understand the relationship of oxidative stress to the ALS disease process and to see whether there are factors other than the disease itself (such as environmental exposures) that may influence oxidative stress.

The study started at Columbia University in New York and has now expanded to include 12 sites in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Texas.  

Investigators say the project is the first in-depth, multicenter attempt to examine oxidative stress in ALS "prospectively," meaning starting at a time point and following patients through time. They expect the study to increase understanding of disease mechanisms and hope it will lead to new treatments and perhaps to preventive approaches to the disease.

Specifically, the researchers aim to

  • determine whether increased oxidative stress is associated with the progression of ALS;
  • examine the associations between oxidative stress and survival in ALS;
  • determine whether a variety of environmental, lifestyle and psychological factors measured at baseline (the start of the study) are associated with increased levels of oxidative stress markers measured at baseline;
  • evaluate associations between lipid profiles (such as serum cholesterol and triglyceride measurements) and ALS progression; and
  • examine possible associations between oxidative stress and distinct subtypes of ALS, such as bulbar- or spinal-onset ALS, and ALS with or without dementia (severe cognitive impairment).

Study participants will be asked to answer questions, in writing or over the phone, about employment history, lifestyle, psychological issues and diet.

They will be followed every three or six months for two years. The amount of testing varies by visit but may include collection of questionnaires, pulmonary function tests, neurological and physical exams, cognitive tests, blood or urine tests, or a skin biopsy. 

Participants must

  • have a diagnosis of ALS or possible ALS;
  • be at least 20 years old;
  • have experienced symptom onset within the last 18 months;
  • be fluent in English;
  • pass the Capacity Assessment Record evaluation confirming that they understand the information in the consent and HIPAA forms and are able to sign them;
  • reside within commutable distance of a study site (see below) and be willing to visit it as required; and
  • have a reliable caregiver (relative, spouse, domestic partner or other unpaid household member) who is willing to assist in communicating information in interviews and questionnaires.

Participants must not

  • have a family history of ALS;
  • be participating in any pharmaceutical clinical trials before baseline specimens are collected;
  • have any active major neurological diseases other than ALS;
  • have any history of other major neurological diseases; or
  • have had any major, unstable medical diseases (such as cancer or kidney disease) that required treatment (such as dialysis) within the past six months.

Contact Info

If you've recently received an ALS diagnosis and want to find out more about the study, contact one of the following study sites.


University of California, Irvine

Veronica Martin, coordinator

Phone: (714) 456-2332



University of California-Davis

Roxana Hupcey, coordinator

Phone: (916) 734-6244



California Pacific Medical Center

San Francisco

Dallas Forshew, coordinator

Phone: (415) 600-3938


Will Harris, coordinator

Phone: (415) 600-3967



University of California-San Francisco

Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, M.D., principal investigator


Jennifer Murphy, Ph.D., principal investigator

Phone: (415) 514-0490




University of Colorado


Elizabeth Whitethorn, coordinator

Phone: (303) 724-2186




Kansas University Medical Center

Kansas City

Laura Herbelin, coordinator

Phone: (913) 588-5095


Maureen Walsh, coordinator

Phone: (913) 588-0645




University of Kentucky


Jason King, coordinator

Phone: (859) 218-5062




Mayo Clinic


Sherry Klingerman, coordinator

Phone: (507) 284-0451



New York 

Columbia University Medical Center

New York City

Kate Dalton, coordinator

Phone: (212) 305-2027



Upstate Medical Center


Katie Markis, coordinator

Phone: (315) 464-4998


Mary Lou Watson, coordinator



North Carolina 

Duke University Medical Center


Karen Grace, coordinator

Phone: (919) 668-2844




Texas Neurology


Shari Hand, coordinator

Brent Spears, coordinator

Phone: (214) 279-0326


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