LiveLikeLou has announced that Daryl P. Fields, MD, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh, will receive the foundation’s inaugural Postdoctoral Fellowship, a two-year, $150,000 grant, to fund his research project studying spinal cord stimulation in the treatment of motor deficits, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The goal of LiveLikeLou researcher grants is to support promising scientists in the early stages of postdoctoral training at an R01-level institutional research laboratories, who are pursuing novel, innovative research to find treatments and cures for ALS.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with Dr. Fields’ selection for this inaugural fellowship,” said W.L. Gray, chairman of the LiveLikeLou Foundation Board of Trustees. “We are eager to see the outcome of this first award on the science, and on Dr. Field’s career.”
Dr. Fields’ funded project, described as “Spinal cord stimulators for the preservation of motoneuron survival and movement control within spinal neurodegenerative disease,” will test the hypothesis that direct modulation of sensory neurons might slow disease progression in muscle function.
In a recent trial, Dr. Fields worked with spinal cord stimulators to treat paralysis in a patient with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neurodegenerative disease classically characterized by motor neuron death, similar to ALS. “This technology needs to be applied to ALS, and this project represents the first step in exploring potential benefits for humans suffering from this debilitating disease,” shared Dr. Fields.
“Our selection committee believes Dr. Fields’ work will offer answers to important questions about the motor neuron life cycle,” said Gaylon Morris, LiveLikeLou board vice chair and Scientific Research Committee chairman. “If successful, Dr. Fields’ work could quickly move from the laboratory to clinical trials.”
The LiveLikeLou Postdoctoral Fellowship Award selection committee included respected ALS research principal investigators from esteemed institutions including Thomas Jefferson University, the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan. Suzanne Alexander, LiveLikeLou Foundation trustee and co-founder, chaired the selection committee’s work.
Dr. Fields joined the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery in July 2018. He completed his undergraduate degree at Saint John’s University, his medical degree, and a research doctorate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Prior to medical school, Dr. Fields held several leadership positions as a firefighter captain and medic. In addition, he spent several years as a neural rehab personal trainer managing clients with debilitating neuromuscular disorders, including stroke, brain trauma, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries. This work led him to discover his leadership abilities, manual adeptness, and human interaction skills, thus spurring his interest in using these aptitudes to serve society through a medical career.
“Dr. Fields’ work epitomizes our vision to leave ALS better than we found it,” said LiveLikeLou Executive Director Wendy Faust. “His work is truly novel, and his prior research, training, and interest in this field is exciting to fund and follow.”