House Calls

SUM 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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h o u s e c a l l s { summer 2018 } 47 new horizons HC: What exactly is ALS? JM : ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder that targets and kills nerve cells related to muscle movement. Basically, those with ALS lose the ability to control certain muscle groups. It is a progressive disease that typically affects patients between 55 and 75 years of age. Symptoms include weakness and loss of movement in the legs, arms, hands, and feet; patients may have difficulty swallowing and speaking and may become paralyzed. Ultimately, the disorder results in death when the muscles related to the respiratory system fail. HC: Where is the medical field when it comes to understanding and treating the condition? JM : The cause of ALS is presently unknown. In many cases, doctors will rule out all other diseases with similar symptoms before diagnosing a patient with ALS. That means the patients we see are very diverse, and that the diagnoses are not always precise. It typically takes six to seven months to reach a diagnosis and, once diagnosed, the average lifespan for an ALS patient is three to five years. This results in a narrow window of opportunity for treatment to take place. There is still no cure for the disease; the two treatments that are currently FDA-approved merely extend a person's life by a few months. HC: What is the goal of the ALS clinical trial slated for 2019? JM : We believe that the development of ALS may be related to a specific deficit in the immune system—a deficit that could possibly be detected by a simple blood test. Our clinical trial will analyze the blood samples of ALS patients to test this theory. If it proves true, we could test and diagnose ALS before a patient's neurons are impaired and perhaps even develop and administer a treatment for the condition. The ultimate goal is to prevent people from developing ALS in the first place. HC: That sounds amazing. When does the trial begin? JM : Right now, we're identifying potential participants. We're hoping for a minimum of 100 ALS patients to donate blood samples when we begin the study in early 2019. To discuss enrollment in the trial or to donate funds for this research, contact the Roper St. Francis Healthcare Research and Innovation Center at (843) 720-1205 or visit rs.com/research/als. P H O T O G R A P H C O U R T E S Y O F D R . M I N T Z E R Progress Ahead A new clinical trial at Roper St. Francis Healthcare hopes to pinpoint the cause of a deadly neurodegenerative disease – J A C Q U I C A L L O W A Y D umping a bucket of ice over your head may sound like the perfect remedy for the Lowcountry heat right about now, but during the summer of 2014, the craze swept the Internet for a much different reason: to fund research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. Thanks to the viral Ice Bucket Challenge, 2.5 million people donated a whopping $115 million to the ALS Association. Even so, a cure for the roughly 15,000 Americans currently suffering from the fatal disease remains elusive. "It is imperative that we find a better way to diagnose and treat this disease," says Roper St. Francis Healthcare's chief research officer Dr. Jacobo Mintzer. As executive director of the Roper St. Francis Healthcare Research and Innovation Center, Dr. Mintzer and his team are currently testing a theory developed by Dr. Michael Schwartz—a leading expert in neuroimmunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel—hypothesizing that ALS is caused by a specific deficit in the immune system. Here, Dr. Mintzer gives us the inside scoop on the clinical trial that Roper St. Francis's Loy Stewart and George C. Wendt Institute for ALS Research will launch next year. Dr. Jacobo Mintzer

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