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GCA Medalist in the News: Major Advances in ALS Announced


December 03, 2020

Paul Alan Cox, PhD, 2019 Luquer Medalist, Ethnobotanist Leads Effort

Paul Alan Cox, PhD, one of the world’s pre-eminent ethnobotanists and recipient of the GCA’s 2019 Eloise Payne Luquer Medal, is on a search to find treatments and cures for progressive neurodegenerative diseases. The Brain Chemistry Labs (BCL), where Dr. Cox is founder and director, recently announced major advances in slowing the progression of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), identifying a toxin found in green algae as a possible ALS trigger, and discovering a unique fingerprint in blood samples that enables an early diagnosis.

The Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology published a BCL study reporting the impact of L-serine on ALS animal models. Dr. Cox explains, “The discovery that the naturally occurring amino-acid L-serine slows development of the earliest signs of ALS in laboratory animals holds significant promise for ALS patients and their families. We look forward to the results of the FDA-approved Phase II clinical trials that we are sponsoring at Dartmouth Medical School to know if L-serine can become part of the neurologist’s toolbox in treating this serious disease.” 

A separate study published in the Royal Society’s Open Biology  reports successful isolation of genetic material found in the brain which will have profound implications for ALS patients. Dr. Cox said, “We are excited that the discovery of a unique microRNA fingerprint in standard blood samples from ALS patients will directly improve patient outcomes by facilitating early diagnosis and early treatment of this terrible disease.” Using current scientific measures, patients may have to wait over a year for a confirmed diagnosis.

In addition, PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published the BCL’s study, Cyanobacterial Neurotoxin BMAA and Brain Pathology in Stranded Dolphins. This study shows BMAA (a toxin found in green algae) was detected in the brains of dolphins that also displayed degenerative damage similar to other neurodegenerative diseases in humans. Chronic exposure to cyanobacteria alters the neuropathologies in laboratory animals consistent with progressive human degenerative illness and may be linked to dementia. Dr. Cox remarked, “Given the global increase in cyanobacterial blooms, dolphins are emerging as key indicator species — environmental sentinels — that can help warn us of dangerous cyanobacterial toxins in marine environments.”

The Brain Chemistry Labs, a not-for-profit organization in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, seeks to discover causes and treatments for brain diseases by studying proven patterns of wellness and disease of indigenous people. This focus has led to the discovery of two promising new drugs for ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other tangle diseases. For more information about Dr. Cox’s work, please click here Brain Chemistry Labs.


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