Researcher Goes Beyond the Lab to Fight ALS
October 21st fundraiser helps to raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

October 3, 2006

By Debra Cano Ramos

A biological science professor and her students are joining the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) not only through their research efforts, but also by participating in an Orange County fundraiser to support patients with the fatal disease, Sandra Banack, associate professor of biological science, will take part in “Walk to D’Feet ALS” on Saturday, Oct. 21.  Proceeds from the annual 5K-walk benefit the ALS Association.

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the legendary baseball player who was diagnosed with it in 1939. It is a motor neuron disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy, Banack noted.
An estimated 30,000 people nationwide have ALS.

The cause of ALS is not completely understood, according to the ALS Association. But over the last decade, there has been a wealth of new scientific understanding about it that provides hope for the future.

And that’s where Banack has stepped up to the plate. She and fellow researchers have studied the indigenous people of Guam whose diets includes eating bats and have a high level of a neurotoxin associated with ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

While her research continues to delve into the connection between neurotoxin and neurodegenerative disease, Banack hopes that one day her efforts will help prevent the affliction. By participating in the ALS event, the scientist not only wants to heighten awareness about the disease, but contribute to finding a cure.

Graduate student TJ (Thomas) Buretta also agreed that it is important to raise ALS awareness among his peers on campus because “ALS is not talked about as much as other diseases.”
“We want to encourage students to help out in their community,” he said, adding that this event ultimately helps to better serve people with ALS and their families.

Because people with the fatal disease usually experience muscle weakness and paralysis and lose their ability to walk, Banack added that “we can be their feet, and help to give them hope.”
CSUF faculty and staff members and students may join Banack in the walk at Mason Regional Park, 18712 University Drive. There is no registration fee; participants are asked to seek pledges or give a small donation. A CSUF carpool will meet at 7:45 a.m. at parking lot E, row 10.

Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the event begins at 10 a.m. For more information, call Sandra Banack at 657-278-5260, or go online at

Sandra Banack
Sandra Banack