Lauren Laboissonniere was 13 when her grandfather died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Now that she is a doctoral student, the disease coined Lou Gehrig's disease is the focus of her research.

Laboissonniere is studying cell populations in mouse models of Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disorder where the motor neurons — the cells that control movement — begin to degenerate. In the beginning stages, symptoms like muscle stiffness and tingling are present.

As the disease progresses, it can weaken the diaphragm and make things like breathing difficult. ALS is fatal, has no cure and very few treatments.

“It left a really lasting impression on me," Laboissonniere said. "There’s no great treatment option for people with the disease. Then I came to Iowa State.”

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Lauren Laboissonniere works in her lab at the Molecular Biology building, studying ALS in mouse models. Her goal is to find a biomedical marker to target the disease in cells to develop a treatment.

ALS — like many neurodegenerative diseases — is progressive, meaning that when the disease first sets in, there are little to no noticeable symptoms, and over time it becomes more serious, painful and even fatal. Most neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have few treatment options, if any. Unfortunately, ALS is no different in this respect.

At 13 years old, Laboissonniere hadn’t seen illness that couldn’t be fought. Despite her father having varying forms of cancer, he had always been treated, and the cancer would be gone. 

“When I was growing up it was like you get sick, you go to the doctor, you get better,” Laboissonniere said. “My father has had different types of cancer all my life, but he would go to the doctor and he would get better. So even cancer to me wasn’t, like, a big deal.”

Laboissonniere said that when her grandfather was diagnosed with ALS, she had never encountered a disease that couldn’t be treated. So when her mother — who was a nurse — told her that her grandfather wasn’t going to get better and that he was going to die, it was ‘eye opening.’

“She made it clear, ‘Grandpa is not gonna live. He is not going to survive this. This is not a disease that you come out the other side of. He will die.' It was baffling to me,” Laboissonniere said. “At the time he was diagnosed he might’ve had tingling in his arms, but to me he seemed fine. But I didn’t realize that not everything has a drug. As a 13-year-old that’s hard to grapple with. He passed away less than a year later, in April, just after my birthday.”

Laboissonniere referred to a quote from the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom: “ALS is like a lit candle: it melts your nerves and leaves your body a pile of wax.”

“It’s a really sad disease. You’re being tube fed, you’re being washed by someone else, you can’t move, and we don’t know their mental health so we don’t know if they are aware of what’s going on, or if they have dementia or maybe they’re fully capable and completely reactive,” Laboissonniere said. “What a worse way to go, trapped inside your own body.”

She said she knew right away then that she wanted to study the disease. 

“Lauren [Laboissonniere] performs some state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques to sample what genes are expressed in different populations,” said assistant professor Jeff Trimarchi. “This is much more difficult than it might sound and requires both wet lab molecular biology skill and skill in computational analysis of the large data sets.”

Laboissonniere studied these techniques at the University of Massachusetts when she was an undergrad in biomedical engineering. 

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Doctoral student Lauren Laboisssoniere is studying ALS in mouse models in partnership with Jeff Trimarchi of Iowa State University and Dr. Hande Ozdinler of Northwestern University.

When she came to Iowa State, she began to study the retina under Trimarchi. Trimarchi had a connection at Northwestern University, Dr. Hande Ozdinler, who works at the Northwestern School of Medicine and has a number of mouse models of ALS that Laboissonniere and Trimarchi have been able to use for their research.

“We look at the different genes that [the mice models] are expressing and we compare them to healthy mice at the same time points to see if there are genes that are being over-expressed or under-expressed that may be causing those cells to die,” Laboissonniere said.

Laboissonniere said the goal of this research is to isolate markers of the disease in cell populations, target them and test drugs that will attack the markers of the disease. 

“We are really hoping to identify some sort of biomarker or something that we can target with a drug that can stop or slow down the disease progression, in hopes that it will translate back to humans,” Laboissonniere said.

Laboissonniere has examined multiple ALS mouse models and currently is in the process of publishing the results of this research. 

Along with her research and the retina research with Trimarchi, she is in charge of a team of undergrad students working on a project studying zebrafish models of ALS.

“In all of these projects, Lauren [Laboissonniere] has done a wonderful job. She functions as a very independent researcher,” Trimarchi said. “Teaching herself the computational skills needed to analyze all of the data she has generated is particularly impressive.”

Laboissonniere is currently interviewing in labs for her postdoctoral research as she completes her doctorate this spring. She hopes to run an ALS lab of her own one day.

(38) comments

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That already happened in behavioral neuroscience - animal learning -animal behavior - neuroethology; they no longer exist separately except in very isolated cases. In other areas (cognitive) the merger is partial. But some areas of psychology are not likely to ever merge completely with neuroscience (developmental, clinical, social, industrial/org, measurement, ABA, etc.). Whether or not neuroscience is useful, economical, and ethical in addressing particular questions often is the key. You can check out the neuroscience curriculum development if you need more information. So for example, you don't need neuroscience to do ABA on an autistic kid, although it might add something to our understanding of ABA or autism, it just isn't necessary to do the work.

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I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) 15 months ago. At that time riluzole was prescribed. I found I could not tolerate it. did very little to help me. The medical team did even less. My decline was rapid and devastating. The psychological support from the medical centre was non-existent and if it were not for the sensitive care and attention of my primary physician, I would have died. There has been little if any progress in finding a cure or reliable treatment. My ALS got significantly worse and unbearable because of my difficulty catching breath. Last year, i started on a natural ALS Herbal therapy from Green House Herbal Clinic, i read a lot of positive reviews from patients who used the treatment and i immediately started on it. I had great relief with this herbal treatment. I am doing very much better now, no case of shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing,, my ALS condition is totally reversed. Visit Green House Herbal Clinic website ww w.greenhouseherbalclinic .com. This treatment is a miracle!!

Sorice Madina

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My mother was diagnosed with ALS in May 2014. Her doctor put her on riluzole, letting her know there was no cure but the medication might provide her a few more months of delayed symptoms. ALS progresses at different rates and affects different body parts first. My mother, being 80 at the time, fell into a category of what they call "fast progression" (older female). Her arms weakened first, then her hands, her mouth, and throat, and finally her lungs. Throughout her two-and-a-half-year ordeal, she was able to walk with assistance. All the while she continued to take the riluzole. If it bought my mother any time, we will never know. Her neurologist told us that if she couldn't afford it, there was no real need to take it. She lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medication I took her off the riluzole (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started her on the ALS natural herbal formula we ordered from GREEN HOUSE HERBAL CLINIC, We spoke to few people who used the treatment here in Canada and they all gave a positive response, her symptoms totally declined over a 7 weeks use of the Green House ALS disease natural herbal formula. She is now almost 83 and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! (Visit their website www . Greenhouseherbalclinic . com) I am thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God. Share with friends!!

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My ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) symptoms started out with a "foot drop" on my right foot. From there my right leg lost all muscle tone and after a while the entire right leg muscles were gone. Also my fingers and thumbs "contract" at times. Left arm was losing muscle tone too.The neurologist. started me on Riluzole , to reduce symptoms and slow down progression but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on ALS Disease Natural formula from THE HERBAL GARDENS, the ALS natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my ALS. my slurred speech. And then the inability to eat without getting choked, strangled, and coughing. and others gradually disappeared. Visit THE HERBAL GARDENS via their official web-site ww w. Theherbalgardens. org. This ALS treatment has improved the quality of my life greatly, Since the procedure I enjoy walking the dog for my daily exercise. DON’T GIVE UP HOPE!!!

Theresa Christensen

My ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) symptoms started out with a "foot drop" on my right foot. From there my right leg lost all muscle tone and after a while the entire right leg muscles were gone. Also my fingers and thumbs "contract" at times. Left arm was losing muscle tone too.The neurologist. started me on Riluzole , to reduce symptoms and slow down progression but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on ALS Disease Natural formula from THE HERBAL GARDENS, the ALS natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my ALS. my slurred speech. And then the inability to eat without getting choked, strangled, and coughing. and others gradually disappeared. Visit THE HERBAL GARDENS via their official web-site ww w. Theherbalgardens. org. This ALS treatment has improved the quality of my life greatly, Since the procedure I enjoy walking the dog for my daily exercise. DON’T GIVE UP HOPE!!!

chantelle staff

My primary physician prescribed riluzole and radicava to reduce symptoms and slow down the disease progress, I could not take them for long because of the terrible side effects. So i adopted a more natural approach and started on ALS Herbal formula from RICH HERBS FOUNDATION, the ALS natural formula immensely helped my condition, i had a total recovery from ALS with this formula treatment. Their official web-site w w w. r i c h h e r b s f o u n d a t i o n. c o m. I feel so much alive again!

howell joe


I was diagnosed with ALS in April 2017 and I decided to fight this naturally by better diet, natural herbs, organic food, and eliminating all toxins in my life. I can gladly say my fight is over, after using ALS herbal remedy I purchased from Best Health Herbal Centre, the herbal remedy drastically slowed my progression the first week of usage and reversed my ALS the last week of usage. I used the ALS herbal remedy for only six weeks.

I am a man of faith and I believe that when HOPE is lost ALS wins. Believe you can beat this disease naturally and have faith that nothing is bigger than God.[happybirthday][happybirthday][happybirthday]

stacey wathan

My mother was diagnosed with ALS in May 2016. Her doctor put her on riluzole, letting her know there was no cure but the medication might provide her a few more months of delayed symptoms. ALS progresses at different rates and affects different body parts first. My mother, being 73 at the time, fell into a category of what they call "fast progression" (older female). Her arms weakened first, then her hands, her mouth, and throat, and finally her lungs. Throughout her two-and-a-half-year ordeal, she was able to walk with assistance nothing was really working to help her condition.I took her off the riluzole (with the doctor's knowledge) and started her on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis herbal formula i ordered from peter Health Med Lab Clinic, her symptoms totally declined over a 5 weeks use of the ALS disease natural herbal remedy. She's now almost 75 and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed!! with the help of Dr from health Med Lab Clinic,contact them today via healthmedlab at g mail dot com

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