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The Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS MDA Center, part of the Carolinas HealthCare System Neurosciences Institute-Neurology, is an internationally recognized program of clinical care, research and education for degenerative neuromuscular diseases, such as Duchenne and limb girdle muscular dystrophy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The center’s goal is to discover, evaluate and implement treatments for ALS and neuromuscular diseases including environmentally-caused, genetic and idiopathic neurodegenerative diseases with central and peripheral involvement having neuromuscular consequences.

The Carolinas ALS endowment was established in 1998 to provide the funds for treatment, patient support, research and education programs conducted by the center. The Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS-MDA Center is now one of the most comprehensive ALS and muscular dystrophy facilities in the United States, and the Southeast's major comprehensive facility for the study and treatment of degenerative neuromuscular diseases.

Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and other community-based organizations support the center’s clinical and research programs in neuromuscular diseases and ALS. The center has two translational research laboratories: the Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS Research Laboratory and the McColl-Lockwood Laboratory for Muscular Dystrophy Research. 

The Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS Research Laboratory maintains a biospecimen and tissue repository to provide samples for research. The laboratory is a source of basic and clinical research training and education for undergraduate, graduate and medical students, post-doctoral fellows, residents and visiting faculty to further advance this mission.

Research Summary

The Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS Research Laboratory examines areas of therapy development, motor neuron cell biology and diagnostic test development for neuromuscular diseases, particularly ALS. The laboratory was established in 2000 via a $1 million challenge gift from Crandall and Erskine Bowles together with other philanthropic donations to the ALS Research Fund in order to advance the diagnosis and treatment of ALS and neuromuscular diseases.  At the time of the gift, Crandall Bowles said, “ALS has impacted our family, and we want to do all that we can to combat it. Through this challenge gift, we hope to inspire others to support a project right here in our community that may have worldwide impact for all families affected by this disease.”

All research is conducted under the direction of the Medical Director of the Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS – MDA Center, Benjamin Rix Brooks, MD. The laboratory has three translational research groups in the Cannon Research Center: motor neuron cell biology, stem cell biology/nanotechnology/bioinformatics, and mitochondrial biology. The individual research groups are directed by Richelle Hemendinger, PhD (Research Faculty), Jean-Luc Mougeot, PhD (Senior Scientist), and Alexander Panov, MD, PhD (Senior Scientist). Mohamed Sanjak, PhD (Clinical Research Senior Scientist) directs clinical studies and clinical trials research programs and coordinates with the translational research staff. All group directors direct externally and internally funded research efforts.

Laboratory Members

Benjamin Rix Brooks, MD, Medical Director
Mohammed Sanjak, PT, PhD, MBA Clinical Research Senior Scientist
Priscilla Russo, RN, BSN, MS, MSCN, CCRC, Research Manager