Updated October 20, 2017

Bastien Paré from l’Université Laval has been studying ALS for more than five years. We spoke with him about his research and the future of ALS in Canada.

Can you tell us about your ALS Canada-funded research?

I’m quite different from most people that are working on neurons, and trying to understand the neurodegenerative part of ALS. I’m working on ALS in the skin of patients. So we think that the skin might be a good human model to study ALS, and then discover new biomarkers, or understand how the disease works, and even try new drugs for possible treatment of the disease.

How did you get involved in ALS research?

At first, I was studying Alzheimer’s Disease, and then going on about some proteins that could be related to ALS. Then I was able to meet people that were affected with the disease. And then meeting people affected with this terrible disease that is ALS, then it kept me going about studying ALS and trying to discover something about it and understand more about the disease.

What we aim to do is to be able to discover biomarkers that could help in the pre-diagnostic part of the disease. So, if we are able to detect ALS before the apparition of symptoms, and then neurodegeneration, then when there is a drug available for those patients, we’ll be able to give this drug earlier. So we think it might be able to delay the development of ALS in those patients, or related ones.

If someone living with ALS were to ask you where we are at with ALS research today, what would you tell them?

We think there’s still a lot to do about ALS, but we’re working on understanding how the disease works so we can pinpoint specific drugs that would help treat the disease. So right now, where we are, I guess, is we’re trying to better understand how the disease works so we can test drugs that could be specific to ALS patients, and then be able to treat this terrible disease.

What do you see as the difference-makers in ALS research?

I think clinical trials and people affected with ALS participating in those trials are very important, because without them, those drugs couldn’t be tested. And then we wouldn’t know if they work or not. We know it’s hard for ALS patients to get treated. Sometime those treatments are hard to live with. But this is very essential to the discovery of drugs that could work for all ALS patients, and then delay the development of the disease, or even stop it.

Is there anything you’d like to say to donors who help make your research possible?

Of course, it’s important to donate to ALS Canada or patients. Because without this money, well, it would be hard for us to use the newest technologies to be able to study ALS, how ALS works in patients. And then, as I said, try new drugs and pinpoint drugs or chemicals that could be very good treatments to delay or stop the progression of the disease. So this money, I guess, is very important to add finances to those labs that maybe don’t have it. Or students that still need this money to buy new equipment and do new techniques that, I guess, are very important for discoveries of those drugs and supporting ALS patients.

ALS Canada Virtual Research Forum

Update: Bastien was one of more than 20 speakers who participated in the ALS Canada Virtual Research Forum in August. You can listen to his full presentation online here.

Posted in: Research