The Role of Genetics and Database Variety for ALS Research: Matthew B. Harms, MD


The associate professor of neurology at Columbia University discussed the role of genetics in ALS and how it compares to other neurodegenerative disorders, as well as why having a variety of large databases will prove positive for the field. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“It's good for us to have multiple databases approaching this from different directions, and so we can then use those big data tools—the AI and other machine learning algorithms—to be able to bring those together to learn more from the increased numbers across these different studies.”

As part of a larger conversation around ALS Awareness Month, and the hot topics in the medical care of this patient population, NeurologyLive® spoke at length with Matthew B. Harms, MD, associate professor of neurology, Columbia University, and medical consultant and care center director, Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Drawing from his clinical experience, he shared his perspective on one of the more popular discussion points: genetics.

Recent years have seen the rapid advancement of genetic-based medicine and research, and the neuromuscular disorder specialty has perhaps played witness to some of the greatest steps forward. For Harms, the improved understanding of the role of genetics in the pathology of ALS has better informed the clinical community about possible therapeutic approaches as well as disease processes—namely, its differences from other diseases, such as Alzheimer disease or Parkinson disease.

Additionally, as the cost of genetic sequencing has become more affordable, patient-level genetic databases have sprung up in parallel. These hubs and their respective data collection processes have not only provided a platform for identifying genes that are implicated in the disease but have—in Harms’ opinion—benefitted from their differences. The variation in the specific data points and outcomes that are tracked in these hubs has offered numerous perspectives on the disease, he explained.

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