Exposure to Neurotoxins as Risk Factors for ALS

Brief Title

Exposure to Neurotoxins as Risk Factors for ALS

Official Title

Exposure to Neurotoxins as Risk Factors for ALS: Measurement of Genes, Proteins, Neurotoxicants, and Other Factors Potentially Associated With ALS

Brief Summary

      Chemicals called neurotoxins can harm the nervous system. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
      is a progressive disease affecting movement. Researchers have studied many possible causes of
      ALS, including injury, diet, and exposure to chemicals, but these studies were inconclusive.

      The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to lead or other neurotoxins can
      contribute to ALS. The study also evaluated lifestyle and dietary patterns. The study was
      completed in 1994-1996.

      One hundred eighty-two participants took part in this study 110 patients with ALS and 72 who
      did not have ALS. Each completed a questionnaire concerning lifestyle, diet, and residential,
      job, and medical history. Participants contributed 50 cc of blood, used to measure lead, as
      well as clippings of their toenails, used to measure mercury and other metals. They then
      underwent an XRF test (an X-ray procedure) to measure the level of lead in their shinbones
      and knees. Genes related to ALS or susceptibility to lead exposure were also evaluated.

Detailed Description

      OBJECTIVES: Stored blood and toenail samples are available from a case-control study of ALS
      conducted in 1993-1996. The purpose of the initial study was to examine the relationship to
      ALS of lead and other exposures, including mercury, pesticides, and solvents, as well as
      genetic susceptibility to these exposures. The protocol was closed in May 1997 (closed
      protocol #95-007) after recruitment of study subjects ended. The objective of the present
      proposal is to reopen the protocol to permit measurement in blood or toenails of genes,
      proteins, neurotoxicants, and other factors or agents potentially associated with ALS, as
      well as analyses of existing data. The short-term goal is to measure (i) polymorphisms in DNA
      repair genes; (ii) serum protein profiles; and (iii) serum organochlorine pesticide levels.
      Other factors may be of interest in the future, for example polymorphisms in other genes or
      levels of metals in blood or toenails. We also plan (iv) to continue analyses of existing
      data. Some data analysis will involve combining data from the original ALS study with data
      from the Harvard Normative Aging Study, a cohort study of World War II verterans that has
      collected demographic, lifestyle, and medical data as well as information on bone and blood
      lead levels.

      STUDY POPULATION: No new subjects will be recruited for this protocol. The original study
      involved 110 ALS cases, 31 hospital controls with other neurologic diseases, and 256
      population controls, recruited in New England between 1993 and 1996. The population controls
      were frequency matched to the cases on the basis of age, gender, race, and region within New

      DESIGN: The original study was a case-control study. Data collection involved an interview
      collection of blood and toenail samples, and measurement of bone lead using x-ray
      fluorescence. Stored blood and/or toenail samples are available from 107 ALS cases, 31
      hospital controls, and 39 population controls. The present study will use conventional
      techniques to measure genetic polymorphisms and serum organochlorine levels and newly
      developed SLDI-TOF technology to evaluate serum protein profiles.

      OUTCOME PARAMETERS: The outcome parameter is risk of ALS. Associations with ALS risk will be
      evaluated for polymorphisms in DNA repair genes; serum protein profiles; and organochlorine
      pesticide levels in serum.

Study Type


Primary Outcome

Measurement in blood or toenails of genes, proteins, neurotoxicants, and other factors or agents potentially associated with ALS




* Includes publications given by the data provider as well as publications identified by National Clinical Trials Identifier (NCT ID) in Medline.

Recruitment Information

Estimated Enrollment


Start Date

June 3, 2003

Completion Date

January 23, 2019

Eligibility Criteria


        Cases were eligible to participate in the original study if (1) they had received a
        diagnosis of ALS within 2 years; (2) they lived in New England at least half the year; (3)
        they spoke English; (4) they were mentally and physically able to participate. The same
        inclusion criteria were used for controls.


        Potential controls were excluded if they had a physician diagnosis of a neurodegenerative
        disease, polio, post-polio syndrome, or nondiabetic neuropathy.

        Pregnant women were excluded from both case and control groups.




N/A - N/A

Accepts Healthy Volunteers



Freya Kamel, Ph.D., , 

Location Countries

United States

Location Countries

United States

Administrative Informations



Organization ID


Secondary IDs


Responsible Party


Study Sponsor

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

Study Sponsor

Freya Kamel, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

Verification Date

January 23, 2019