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Potential ALS breakthrough offering ray of hope for recently diagnosed Ottawa man

Thousands of Canadians live each year with a devastating diagnosis: ALS. The condition, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, currently has no cure, but that could change after a promising breakthrough in Canadian research.

Raymond St. Pierre has been living with an official ALS diagnosis for six months, but his symptoms started more than a year ago.

“It was devastating news,” said St. Pierre, “You terminate all of the plans in your immediate future. Everything from your garage to your cutting grass to your social world. No future plans, no nothing.”

ALS is a disease that slowly paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body. It can progress quickly, with 80 per cent of patients dying within two to five years of diagnosis.

St. Pierre is managing his symptoms, like having trouble with balance.

“I’m living day by day. I’m hoping I will know later on this summer if I am in for the long run,” he said. “My fingers have gone numb.”

Now there’s a promising breakthrough out of Western University after decades of research. A potential cure.

“It’s the pathway that gives us hope that we will find a cure going forward,” said Dr. Michael Strong, who is leading the research and is the president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Strong’s team discovered that targeting an interaction between two proteins present in ALS impacted cells can halt or even reverse the progression of the disease. The team has been working with fruit flies then mice.

“It’s still in mice and our track record in mice going to men has not been stellar, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Strong.

Strong hopes to bring the potential treatment to human clinical trials within three to five years.

“For one of the first times in my life, I can say I actually see the horizon. I actually see where we’re headed to on this one,” he said.

St. Pierre says he hopes to access the treatment himself.

“It was a light at the end of the tunnel, which was never existed before. And I’ve been find myself very encouraged about the findings,” he said.

Until then, St. Pierre is keeping busy raising money for treatment of the debilitating disease. He is helping with an ALS Awareness ride and BBQ on June 22 at Motor Sport World at 1375 Clyde Ave. in Ottawa and is also helping with a Walk to End ALS on Saturday, June 1 at the Tony Graham Recreation Complex and Walter Baker Park at 100 Charlie Rogers Pl. in Ottawa.

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