October 8, 2021

Maureen Sartor and Alla Karnovsky Co-PIs on NIH ALS Initiative

Multidisciplinary group of U-M researchers will investigate environmental exposures, chosen as one of the first projects in a new NIH amyotrophic lateral sclerosis initiative.

Neurologists say it’s time for a moonshot for their patients with ALS, the neurodegenerative disease that is always deadly, often in just a few years or less.ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, hijacks people’s ability to move, and ultimately, to breathe. Clinicians know there’s some combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, but they can’t usually tell a patient what specifically sparked their disease. They can’t slow it down, either.  

Now, a $3.6 million project funded by the National Institutes of Health will allow a team of experts to intensely explore the intersection of environmental exposures, genetics, inflammation, and other factors, in order to better determine what makes someone more likely to develop ALS.

“Given that we are seeing more and more individuals with ALS every year, there is no better time than now to initiate these important investigations,” said co-principal investigator Eva Feldman, CCMB Affiliate and the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, and director of the ALS Center of Excellence and NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies.“The time is ripe for undertaking this work, given the recent advances in sequencing and computational approaches to integrate large sets of heterogeneous multi-omics data,” said co-principal investigator Maureen Sartor, professor of computational medicine and bioinformatics and of biostatistics at the School of Public Health.  “We believe this is a unique opportunity to really take the field in a new direction.”  

Co-investigators, all from U-M, include Kelly Bakulski, assistant professor of epidemiology; Alla Karnovsky, associate professor of computational medicine and biology; Bhramar Mukherjee, professor of biostatistics, epidemiology, and global public health; and Lili Zhao, associate professor of biostatistics.

This research will be conducted under grant number 1 R01 NS127188-01.

Alla Karnovsky, PhD

Alla Karnovsky, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics
Program Director, Masters Program
Maureen Sartor

Maureen Sartor, Ph.D.

Professor of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics
Co-Director, Bioinformatics Graduate Program
Professor of Department of Biostatistics