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Barbara Bloom Ranson Fund for MSA Research at BWH

from the BWH Development Office March 2019

This fund generously allows us to develop a biomarker program for patient multiple system atrophy. We currently collect blood, cerebrospinal fluid and stool for longitudinal analysis. We also study longitudinal changes in MRI and PET. We have also begun to look at how these biomarkers change with therapeutic intervention. To learn more about our clinical studies in MSA, click here.


Barbara Bloom Ranson was blessed with a loving, close-knit family and a fulfilling career as one of the first women in the field of soil engineering.  When an incurable, rare neurodegenerative disease, multiple system atrophy (MSA), began to rob her of her abilities, she and her family were devastated.  MSA, like Parkinson’s disease, is thought to be caused by an excessive accumulation of a neurotoxic brain protein called alpha-synuclein.  MSA ultimately claimed Barbara’s life.

To honor Barbara’s memory and help others with the disease, her mother, Marjorie Bloom, and sisters, Martha Bloom Lindsay and Nancy Bloom Cohen, set out on a nationwide search to make a philanthropic gift to a leading researcher.  This search led them to Vikram Khurana, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Movement Disorders in the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Khurana’s laboratory studies protein misfolding and toxicity in neurodegenerative disease with a particular focus on the misfolding of alpha-synuclein, the protein associated with neurodegeneration in MSA.  Dr. Khurana’s research hopes to draw upon a deep biological understanding of alpha-synuclein in cellular models to develop ideas for new biomarkers and therapies for MSA.  This vision attracted the attention of the Bloom family.  Consequently, Marjorie, Martha, Nancy and her husband, Alan Cohen, Ed Ranson, Barbara’s husband, and aunt and uncle Marilyn and Michael Winer established the Barbara Bloom Ranson Fund for MSA Research at BWH.

Fueling MSA Research

Early diagnosis and tracking disease progression over time will be critical to treating MSA and other neurodegenerative diseases.  The Bloom family recognized this and the acute need to establish biomarkers in MSA in order to accomplish these goals.  The work will involve the analysis of biological material incorporating elements of imaging, body fluid and patient-derived stem cells.  The Barbara Bloom Ranson Fund has the immediate goal of expanding the scope of the Harvard Biomarker Study – a collaborative resource to collect, process, and store biological samples and clinical information from memory and movement patients over time – to formally include patients with MSA.  The fund also builds momentum in existing projects within the Khurana Lab to develop new stem-cell models for MSA patients and identify novel genetic risk factors for the disease.

Recognizing a unique and timely opportunity to make new inroads into a complex, orphan disease, and capitalize on the expertise of Dr. Khurana and his team in genomics research, the Bloom family’s establishment of the Barbara Bloom Ranson MSA Research Fund at BWH was both a thoughtful and strategic decision. It will serve as a catalyst for researchers and clinicians like Dr. Khurana to accelerate their important efforts, opening vital pathways of knowledge on behalf of patients and their families affected by the challenges of MSA.

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