Alex Parker and researchers from his laboratory at the CHUM Research Centre (CRCHUM) have been awarded a three-year $1.6m grant from the Weston Family Foundation as part of the Brain Health: 2021 – Lifestyle Approaches and Microbiome Contributions programme.
With the grant, the team will be able to study, among other things, the ability of the probiotic L. rhamnosus HA-114 from Lallemand Health Solutions, with whom he collaborates, to slow the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This research project will be the subject of a pan-Canadian clinical study conducted on 100 patients and piloted at the CHUM.
The venture will be assisted by Dr Geneviève Matte, director of the ALS clinic at the CHUM, and Martine Tétreault, both researchers at the CRCHUM, Stéphane Bronner, Director Of Preclinical And Clinical Research at the Rosell Institute for the Microbiome and Probiotics, the research and development centre of Lallemand Health Solutions based in Montreal, as well as researcher Matthieu Ruiz of the Montreal Heart Institute Research Center.
"We have been collaborating with Alex Parker and his team for many years now and we are delighted to move forward with this new study which aims to document the health benefits of probiotics", said Sylvie Binda, VP of Research at Lallemand Health Solutions.
"Together we hope to learn how certain bacterial strains protect the nervous system from degeneration in ALS. These findings will help develop new therapeutic approaches," said Alex Parker, who is also a Professor in the department of neurosciences at the Université de Montréal.
Nearly 3,000 Canadians live with ALS, a disease characterised by the selective loss of motor neurons. This causes the patient to lose their muscular capacities until complete paralysis, with life expectancy being on average only 3 to 5 years after the diagnosis. Progressively, a person living with this rare disease loses the ability to walk, speak, eat, swallow and, ultimately, to breathe.
Recent research has shown the gut microbiota may be involved in the onset and progression of the disease. Lallemand says. Identifying neuroprotective bacterial strains is hoped, therefore, to form the basis of novel therapies.
In Parker's laboratory, scientists have already discovered a probiotic that protects motor neurons from degeneration in several animal models of ALS.