New Study Evaluates Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury on ALS

The mission of our Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine is to strive for a future without ALS by accelerating leading-edge research while providing life-enhancing treatment to people living with ALS.

Our team at the Center, made up of researchers and clinicians, is constantly looking at ALS from all angles to form a better understanding of what ALS is as well as identifying potential causes.

Colin Franz, MD, PhD, of our Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine, recently published a review article exploring the relationship between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and ALS.

“Several recent clinical studies have found an association between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and ALS,” explains Dr. Franz, “but there is still not an expert consensus on whether TBI is a risk factor for developing ALS.”

To take a closer look and formalize findings, Franz and his fellow researchers decided to take the issue out of the clinic and into the research lab.

“This controversy will not be settled on the basis of clinical observation alone since this design lacks the ability to test for cause and effect. Our recently published review article entitled the “Impact of traumatic brain injury on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: from bedside to bench” proposes that TBI may contribute to ALS causation in a subset of susceptible patients, perhaps due to individual factors such as a genetic predisposition.”

Only a limited number of preclinical studies have attempted to further understand the TBI-ALS relationship.

“Better preclinical models are essential to make progress,” shares Dr. Franz. “To that end, research groups like ours have begun to incorporate additional scientific models from human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons to fruit flies.”

“Ultimately, this line of investigation may offer us valuable insights into the root cause of ALS and inform future guidelines for athlete participation in head contact sports like football, hockey or boxing.”

Read the full paper by clicking here.