News Release

September 2, 2011

CONTACT: Karen Kreeger

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Penn Researcher Receives Prestigious Award for Groundbreaking ALS Research

PHILADELPHIA —The Instituto Paulo Gontijo International Medicine PG Award for the best ALS research by a young investigator was given to Aaron Gitler, PhD, assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The award includes a $20,000 cash prize, a gold medal, and an invitation to present at the International Symposium on ALS/MND in Sydney, Australia in November 2011. The award for research related to ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) – is sponsored by the Instituto Paulo Gontijo, a Brazilian institution conceived by the physicist and engineer Paulo Gontijo.

Gitler’s research is focused on understanding what causes ALS, primarily the role of two proteins, TDP-43 and FUS, which have recently been associated with ALS. Both TDP-43 and FUS can form clumps in the motor neurons of ALS patients but how they cause disease is unknown. In order to figure out how FUS and TDP-43 contribute to ALS, his lab has been searching for genes that can reverse this process. These studies led them to recently discover that another protein, called ataxin-2, plays an important role in ALS.

“I'm delighted and honored to have won this award,” says Gitler. “When you consider the quality of the other outstanding and dedicated ALS researchers around the world, it’s clearly humbling and a great privilege.”

For more information, please read about the announcement on the Instituto Paulo Gontijo website.