First ALS Clinical Study Launched

Researchers at the UC Health ALS Clinic hope to better identify when patients can benefit from non-invasive ventilation devices, which can improve quality of life during later stages of ALS and potentially prolong survival.

The observational study, the first clinical study in ALS led by researchers at UC Health and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, begins this month. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuromuscular condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, impacts four out of every 100,000 Americans at any given time.

“This study is not looking at a therapy that will cure ALS,” says Robert Neel, MD, associate professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine in the UC College of Medicine, director of the UC Health ALS Clinic and the study’s principal investigator. “We are looking at potential predictors of when a patient should be provided with a BiPAP or AVAPS, which are non-invasive breathing-assist devices. If we start patients on the device earlier, they may feel better and survive longer.”

Currently, a pulmonary function test and nocturnal pulse oximetry are used to measure oxygen insufficiency and to gauge when a patient will benefit from a breathing-assist device. However, these require specialized pulmonary technicians (respiratory therapists) to perform.

“If we are able to identify physical exam predictors of the requirement, we may be able to develop a tool that can help better predict initiation of non-invasive ventilation for practitioners and patients,” Neel says.

To accomplish this, Neel and his colleagues will study data gathered from all ALS patients within the UC Health system.

Funding for the study comes from the Peck-Friedman ALS Fund and the generosity and advocacy of Mrs. Frances Schloss.

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