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O.J. Brigance Named Honorary Chair of May 3 Race to Cure ALS, Confirms His Diagnosis by The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins

BALTIMORE, Md., March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Super Bowl champ O.J. Brigance, who recently confirmed a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by top doctors at The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, is spearheading a spring footrace organized by the Center to fund research to find a cure for the syndrome commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

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The former Baltimore Ravens linebacker now in charge of the team's player development has assumed the role of honorary chairperson for the race, according to the Packard Center's Director Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein. Called "The Fiesta 5K & Fun Run 2008" in a salute to Cinco de Mayo celebrations that same weekend, this second annual event is planned for Saturday, May 3 at 8:00 a.m. at the Power Plant LIVE! Pavilion in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. On-line registration is now available by logging on to the Center's website,

ALS is a neuromuscular disease characterized by a progressive degeneration of motor nerve cells that causes muscles to weaken, then waste away (atrophy). Intellect and the five senses remain. It crosses all socio-economic, race and ethnic lines, occurs spontaneously and has no cure. Although traditionally a disease of middle age, recent clinical observations show an increase in younger patients. This potential trend, plus evidence ALS affects military personnel at twice the rate of the general population, warrant further study.

Brigance, who is 38, has pledged to spend personal time and dollars into creating more awareness and funding for this neurodegenerative condition that affects about 30,000 Americans annually, a rate about equal to multiple sclerosis and five times that of Huntington's disease.

Says Brigance, "The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research is the only one of its kind dedicated solely to finding new therapies to slow or cure ALS. Although the Center operates within the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, its scope is international. Membership is by invitation only, and it's a very elite group of international scientists working in non-traditional ways. They collaborate, rather than compete. And that's for the good of all."

According to Dr. Rothstein, "O.J. demonstrated a fighting spirit on the gridiron and he's tackling ALS the same way, with courage and a display of faith and character that are lessons to us all. We are fortunate to have him on our side and know he will use his football fame in ways that will have far- reaching effects."

Dr. Rothstein says encouraging reports about a new treatment modality pairing the bi-polar drug lithium with riluzole has come from Italian scientists who found in a 15-month clinical trial that the combination appears to slow ALS and improve breathing functions. Riluzole was developed at Johns Hopkins and is the only drug to receive FDA approval for ALS treatment.

"ALS falls into the same family of diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. It's entirely possible that funds directed to ALS research may also benefit other disease states, much in the same way that space research has yielded other discoveries, such as the creation of lightweight, heat - retaining fabrics or new food items for the home table," Dr. Rothstein says.

For more information call Emily Ehehalt a 410-516-6731 or visit

Media Contacts:

Liz Chuday, 410-464-1100 or

Christen Brownlee, 410-955-7832 or

SOURCE The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at JohnsHopkins
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