SANTA CLARA, Calif.—In hopes of advancing research in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Agilent Technologies Inc. has announced that it will collaborate with Dr. Steven Gross of the Department of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Gross, Dr. Qiuying Chen, an assistant research professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell, and Ben Schwartz, a student in the pharmacology doctoral program at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, are studying the most common form of ALS. Agilent will provide the latest mass spectrometry technology—Agilent 6230B LC TOF and 6550A LC Q-TOF mass spectrometers—for Gross' lab to support his research. Gross' expertise is in pharmacology and cell biology, specifically in terms of the role nitric oxide plays as a signaling molecule.
"We're very excited to ally ourselves with Agilent to extend our planned attack on the sporadic form of ALS," Gross noted in a press release. "Our newly established scientific collaboration offers a rare opportunity to obtain and integrate multi-omics data, with the potential to yield an unprecedented understanding of the molecular basis for this devastating disease. We anticipate that this scientific work with Agilent will continue into the future as we apply multi-omics approaches to other poorly understood diseases with unmet clinical needs."
The bulk of all ALS cases fall into the category of sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, though no obvious genetic driver has been identified. Gross is collaborating with Dr. Giovanni Manfredi, a professor of neuroscience in the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute at Weill Cornell, and Dr. Lorenz Studer, director of Sloan Kettering Institute's Center for Stem Cell Biology, to investigate the molecular basis of this disease subtype. Agilent's mass spectrometers will allow them to explore the hypothesis that fibroblasts express certain systemic metabolic markers that inform ALS.
"Translational research using a combination of biological disciplines—genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics—is an emerging trend in academia," Steven Fischer, market director for life-science research in academia and government at Agilent, commented in a statement. "Most researchers, however, do not know how to perform multi-omic analysis, and successful examples are needed. Agilent is working with the Gross lab at Weill Cornell to advance the multi-omics-based approach to disease research, using sporadic ALS to demonstrate the power of this method."
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the neurons in those areas are lost, voluntary muscle control is progressively lost as well, leading to total paralysis in the later stages of the disease. The two types of ALS are sporadic and familial. According to The ALS Association, sporadic ALS is the most common form in the United States, representing 90 to 95 percent of all cases, while familial ALS—an inherited form of the disease in which there is a 50-percent chance each child will inherit the gene mutation and could develop ALS—accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases in the country.