Can this routine and inexpensive procedure have a neuroprotective effect in ALS? 

Award: $125,000 

Collaborators: Dr. Minh Dang Nguyen, University of Calgary, and Dr. Deepak Kaushik, Memorial University of Newfoundland 

Dr. Carlos Rodrigo Camara-Lemarroy is an early-career researcher and clinical neurologist based in Canada at the University of Calgary. He is a first-time recipient of an ALS Canada-Brain Canada research grant

In his clinical practice, Dr. Camara-Lemarroy has worked extensively with people experiencing neurodegenerative diseases – from multiple sclerosis (MS) to Parkinson’s disease and ALS.  

“As a clinician, it has struck me that despite how much we know about the brain, we have so few therapies for patients,” he says. “Their stories just stick in my soul.”  

Motivated by his many patients, Dr. Camara-Lemarroy’s primary research interest is to rapidly translate basic neuroscience research into novel therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. So far, his focus has been on MS. But he realized that many of the diseases he treats as a clinician have similar signatures.  

“At the end of the day, across these diseases, brain cells are dying,” he says. “We need to find a way to stop that.”  

One of his current research questions surrounds ischemic preconditioning, i.e., the practice of briefly cutting off blood supply to prepare the body to better withstand disease.  

In recent years, researchers have found that when they briefly cut off a patient’s blood flow (ischemia) with something as simple as a blood pressure cuff, the body will start to develop natural protective mechanisms, effectively conditioning itself to withstand greater injury.  

Dr. Camara-Lemarroy and his team are asking whether ischemic preconditioning could help people with neurodegeneration better ward off the effects of their disease, effectively slowing progression.  

Through his 2022 ALS Canada-Brain Canada Discovery Grant, Dr. Camara-Lemarroy is applying this concept in an ALS mouse model to see if there is any effect. Success in animal models could pave the way for the therapy to progress to clinical trials, and if ultimately found to be beneficial, it could lead to an accessible, inexpensive, and non-invasive treatment option. 

He’s also leading a clinical trial using a similar concept in MS patients with funding from MS Canada.  

Dr. Camara-Lemarroy’s positive impact on MS research exemplifies the effectiveness of Brain Canada’s One Brain approach. This approach recognizes that every discovery has the potential to have an impact on a spectrum of brain diseases and disorders, as well as on our understanding of brain functioning.”

Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada

Both projects embody Dr. Camara-Lemarroy’s unique approach to therapeutic discovery.  

“I’m trying to find therapies that don’t cost too much, are safe, that anyone can access, and that no one can put a patent on. We need therapies that can work for patients not just in the U.S. and Canada, but around the world. That’s the lens I use when designing studies,” he says.  

In addition to working with Dr. Minh Dang Nguyen, also at the University of Calgary, Dr. Camara-Lemarroy is collaborating with Dr. Deepak Kaushik at Memorial University in Newfoundland, making it a cross-Canada collaboration.  

“This research is truly novel,” says David Taylor, Vice-President, Research and Strategic Partnerships, ALS Canada. “And Discovery Grants are meant to fund novel ideas. It’s innovative ideas like Dr. Camara-Lemarroy’s that can open up new paths for discovery in ALS research.”  

The ALS Canada-Brain Canada Discovery Grant Program has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada), Brain Canada Foundation and ALS Canada 

To find out more about the 2022 ALS Canada-Brain Canada Discovery Grants, read the full press release here.