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Geisinger scientist seeks cure for Lou Gehrig's disease, creating device to find treatment

DANVILLE- A small tropical fish, the curiosity of a Geisinger research scientist and some college students have created the perfect storm of sorts in an attempt to find a cure for one of the worlds most devastating neurological diseases.

On initial glance, there doesnt seem to be much in common between zebrafish, researcher Glenn S. Gerhard, MD and a trio of Bucknell University biomedical engineering students. Yet theyre each playing a critical role in clearing a major roadblock in the search for a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease.

Lou Gehrig's disease-or ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fatal neurodegenerative condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. As many as 20,000 Americans suffer from ALS and about 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Its an aging-related disease that has long fascinated Gerhard, a staff scientist in Geisingers Weis Center for Research.

Gerhard believes that the cure for the diseaseor at least a more viable treatment optioncan be found in the right mix of the millions of drugs and drug compounds that have been developed in laboratories across the world.

There are so many different compounds but you dont know which ones to test, Gerhard says. We need bioengineering help to automate this process.

Thats why Gerhard turned to the zebrafish and Bucknell University professor Joe Tranquillo and students Erica Andreozzi, Meredith Kalman and Emily Thiel.

Several years ago, Gerhard started using the zebrafish, which can be easily bred and tends to exhibit diseases effects at an accelerated rate.

Yet the instruments needed to use these small and inexpensive fish for finding new drugs have not yet been brought to market.

The students have developed a working prototype screening plate that allows scientists to quickly expose zebrafish to ALS and mix c
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Contact: Justin Walden
jawalden@geisinger.edu
570-271-8083
Geisinger Health System
30-Jul-2007


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