University of Chicago and Ataxia Foundation team up for annual scientific and patient meetings

March 5, 2010

The National Ataxia Foundation (NAF), in conjunction with the University of Chicago program in pathobiology and translational neuroscience, will hold its third annual Ataxia Investigators Meeting March 9-11, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, in Rosemont, Ill. A three-day meeting for patients, caregivers and families will follow at the same location.

A rare and poorly understood group of degenerative neurological disorders for which there is no effective treatment, ataxia affects an estimated 150,000 people in the United States. A disease of the cerebellum, ataxia robs its victims of their ability to coordinate movement. Symptoms can include lack of balance, loss of coordination and the ability to walk, spasms and spasticity. Many of those with ataxia also have fatigue, vision loss, and problems hearing, speaking and swallowing.

"Ataxia is less common than neuro-muscular and movement disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis," said meeting organizer Christopher Gomez, MD, PhD, professor and chair of neurology at the University of Chicago. "As a consequence, we know much less about ataxia," he added, "but that is changing rapidly. In the past twenty years there has been an explosion of genetic discovery that has revolutionized our understanding and approach to diagnosis of ataxia. Those insights should lead over time to better treatments."

This is one of the few scientific meetings focused entirely on ataxia and it brings together most of the leading investigators in this field. It's also a chance for well-informed patients who come to Chicago for the annual patient and family meeting to catch up on the latest research in this small but expanding specialty.

The NAF is a Minnesota-based not-for-profit organization that focuses on raising awareness and medical research funding for new treatments or a potential cure for of ataxia.

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