USF researchers study medication that may help patients with incurable neuro-muscular disorder

Ground breaking study taking place at USF

TAMPA, Fla - Chris Nercesian used to walk down halls on the USF campus with the dream of becoming a psychologist. Now he rolls down the same halls with a much different reality.

Diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia, his life plan took an unexpected turn. His doctor Theresa Zesiewicz explains, "Friedreich's Ataxia is a disease that affects young adults and children.  It's a neurologic disease."  fA is progressive and relentless.  She says, "It affects patients walking, balance, speech, hearing, vision and also diabetes, cardiomyopathy, problems with the heart."

Chris says he "Can't walk anymore. Everything that I do takes four times as long.  Getting changed in the morning, putting shoes on, brushing my teeth, eating breakfast, it is one big hassle after another.  Before the wheelchair, I just wanted to be a multi-billionaire, live in a casino, live a fast life, have lots of fast cars. And now, I just want to make things better."

Chris hopes to get that chance by enrolling in a clinical trial starting at the University of South Florida this January.

Dr. Theresa Zesiewicz is the lead investigator. "Currently there are no treatments or cures for Friedreich's Ataxia, but there's a possibility for a new drug that USF will be spearheading in the next month called EPI – 743, which works like a strong Co-Q-10 and works on the mitochondria, which is the power house of the cell. And in some short trials its had good results so far."

Chris wants to see if he qualifies for the trial saying, "By having this new trial, hopefully it'll be good for people and make them better and give them that hope that my life won't be like this anymore."

For information on the trial go to www.curefa.org or health.usf.edu/medicine/neurology/ataxia .

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