Targeting the immune system to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Dr. Murdock is interested in the immune system’s responses in ALS patient blood samples and ALS mouse models, and he is particularly focused on two types of cells - natural killer (NK) cells and CD4 T cells - and their roles in controlling ALS progression. NK cells protect the body from infection and cancer, but also kill dying cells. Research has also found that the molecule that protects the body from its own NK cells is missing in motor neurons during ALS, and that the number of NK cells increases dramatically as ALS progresses. Conversely, CD4 T cells, the master control cells of the immune system, disappear from the blood during ALS, and studies in mice demonstrate that loss of CD4 T cells dramatically accelerates the rate of disease. Dr. Murdock is therefore attempting to slow ALS progression by interfering with NK cell function or by enhancing CD4 T cells. His findings have led to preclinical ALS studies utilizing a currently FDA-approved drug, and if successful, this drug will be tested in clinical trials in ALS patients. Dr. Murdock has obtained a patent on the use of this drug in ALS patients if these trials are successful.
- BS, Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics, University of California Los Angeles, 2003
- PhD, Immunology, University of Michigan, 2010
- Postdoctoral fellowship, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Michigan
- Postdoctoral fellowship, Neurology, University of Michigan
The ALS grant will fund the study of NK cells’ relationship to ALS and work to push a new drug therapy into clinical trials.