Local research center looks for GM1 cure

Doctors did not expect Porter to live past the age of 2.

AUBURN, Al. – A research center at the University of Auburn’s Veterinarian School is working towards finding a cure for Gangliosidosis.  Gangliosidosis is a deadly enzyme deficiency disease commonly known as GM1.

Dr. Doug Martin works at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center and is searching for a cure for the terminal disease.

There is only one known case of GM1 in Alabama.  Two-year-old Porter Heatherly was four-months-old when doctors diagnosed him with GM1 and he could take his last breath at any moment.

Dr. Martin said Porter and his family are an inspiration to his research team.

“If we’re thinking about leaving in the evening and going home a lot of us thinking about Porter and we think well maybe another couple hours in the lab may help other children not have to go through with this,” Dr. Martin explained.

Unfortunately for Porter, it is too late for a cure to save him, but his family hopes his story will lead to a cure and save other lives in the future.

Other researchers have had success with a GM1 treatment in mice, but Dr. Martin went further by testing animals with a more comparable brain size to humans.

He has treated cats suffering from GM1 with a gene therapy.  Dr. Martin said treated cats have been living up to six times longer than untreated cats.

Dr. Martin hopes to have this gene therapy tested on humans by 2017.  It will take around $1,000,000 to fund.

The Heatherlys are holding a birthday party fundraiser for Porter’s third birthday.  It will be on September 12 at the Auburn University Club from 5 to 8 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased online here.  The money raised will go towards finding a cure for GM1.

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