HONOLULU – The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is awarding the 2011 Sheila Essey Award–An Award for ALS Research to Leonard H. van den Berg, MD, PhD, with the Utrecht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Van den Berg will receive the Essey Award during the AAN’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu, held April 9 through April 16, 2011.
The Essey Award recognizes individuals who have made significant research contributions in the search for the cause, prevention of, and cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The $25,000 prize is to be used toward continuing ALS research. ALS is a motor neuron disease which is characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord leading to muscle weakness. People with ALS eventually become paralyzed and die from respiratory failure on average three years after symptoms first appear.
Van den Berg is receiving the award for his research investigating environmental and genetic risk factors for ALS, including smoking, alcohol use, exercise, occupation, and pesticide exposure through large population based studies. In large international studies led by van den Berg, new genetic variants were identified that increase risk for ALS.
“While the cause of ALS is unknown, large population based studies of patients with ALS are needed to conclusively establish environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for ALS,” said van den Berg. “Identifying these factors may further unravel the complexity of ALS, and lead to a better understanding of the cause of this disabling disease and lead to the development of effective treatments for people with ALS.”
Van den Berg will accept the award at 3:30 pm, PT, Friday, April 15, 2011, during the Stem Cell and Genetic Therapies of Motor Neuron Disease Integrated Neuroscience Session at the AAN Annual Meeting. Sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology and the ALS Association, this award is supported through the philanthropy of the Essey family.
The 63rd Annual Meeting of the AAN is world’s largest gatherings of neurologists, taking place in the Hawaii Convention Center.The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and epilepsy. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.