Barrow Scientists Honored for ALS Research at MLB’s Lou Gehrig Day

In honor of MLB’s inaugural Lou Gehrig Day on June 2, the Arizona Diamondbacks recognized two researchers from Barrow Neurological Institute at their game at Chase Field.

Robert Bowser, PhD, chair of the Department of Translational Neuroscience, and Fredric Manfredsson, PhD, recently received a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) grant to study a new therapeutic approach for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig disease, causes the nerve cells responsible for muscle movements to deteriorate and die. Over time, people with ALS may lose their ability to move, speak, eat, and breathe.

The highly competitive, two-year grant of $881,300 will support Dr. Bowser and Dr. Manfredsson in their efforts to target specific inflammatory cells involved in ALS and “flip” them from being harmful to beneficial.

The grant, entitled “Targeting CNS expression of chitinases as a novel therapy for ALS,” builds on Dr. Bowser’s studies of chitinase proteins and Dr. Manfredsson’s work in developing viral vectors for genetic therapies.

Dr. Robert Bowser throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks game against the New York Mets on June 2 at Chase Field in Phoenix. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Jackson/Arizona Diamondbacks)

Their goal is to develop a new class of viral vectors that could carry instructions to certain cells to either turn on or turn off chitinase gene expression—either halting “bad” inflammation or encouraging “good” inflammation in patients with ALS.

Dr. Bowser threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game against the New York Mets. Jeremy Shefner, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Neurology and a neurologist in the Gregory W. Fulton ALS and Neuromuscular Disease Center at Barrow, also attended in support.

MLB established Lou Gehrig Day to celebrate the legacy of the baseball player who died of ALS, to raise awareness and funds for ALS research, and to recognize people leading the fight against the disease.

“Major League Baseball is thrilled to celebrate the legacy of Lou Gehrig, whose humility and courage continue to inspire our society,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “While ALS has been closely identified with our game since Lou’s legendary career, the pressing need to find a cure remains.”