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Stony Brook University Medical Center opened a new cryopreservation laboratory dedicated to advancing research of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and other neuromuscular diseases. The dedication of the lab was a hallmark moment in educational philanthropy and a first at Stony Brook University, as the Medical Center and University recognized a group of Northport High School Students who contributed $125,000 to the opening of the lab. The event took place on June 8 at the SBU Health Sciences Center.

Some of the Northport High School students involved in A Midwinter Night’s Dream gathered at Stony Brook University Medical Center on June 8 to donate $125,000 to a new SBUMC cryopreservation laboratory dedicated to advancing ALS research. Also pictured, from right: Don Strasser, Northport High School science teacher; Mary Kritzer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior at SBUMC, and Glen Itzkowitz, Assistant Dean for Scientific Operations, SBUMC.
Credit: Sam Levitan Photography
The gift comes from a Northport High School annual fundraiser, A Midwinter Night's Dream, a non-profit charity which has raised more than $1 million to benefit ALS research. Operated by the Northport High School chapter of the National Honor Society, the charity involves dozens of students each year. The new SBUMC lab is named "A Midwinter Night's Dream Cryopreservation Laboratory" in honor of the students' gift and commitment to ALS research.

"It is an inspiration to see these high school students put their drive and passion in seeking a cure for ALS to help fund such a worthy cause," said Richard N. Fine, M.D., Dean, SBU School of Medicine. "They will gain invaluable experience by participating in some of the lab's research, and their enthusiasm brings great energy to the effort."

The cryopreservation lab will house frozen samples of diseased tissue for experimentation, a critical resource for researchers who need to study the progression of disease at different points in time. Research will involve investigators from within the School of Medicine and collaborators outside the institution. This summer, a student from Northport High School, Alanna Baldassarre, will help SBUMC neuromuscular disease researchers as cryopreservation lab intern.

"This gift is extremely forward thinking," said Mary Kritzer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, and Scientific Director of the Midwinter Night's Dream/Stony Brook University Summer Research Internship Neurobiology Program. "The resources within the laboratory enable researchers to generate and share powerful genetic models and to explore current ideas about the causes and most promising therapies for ALS and other disorders, as well as collect and preserve models over time."

"The lab gives Stony Brook University scientists immediate access to the best and most current models of disease and treatments and to work collaboratively on a global scale," adds Glen Itzkowitz, Assistant Dean for Scientific Operation at SBUMC. "We share the hope with the students that the work produced within this facility will help lead to advances in the understanding of ALS and other neuromuscular diseases."

Don Strasser, a Northport High School science teacher and Midwinter Night's Dream advisor, said that the charity has inspired students, who have accomplished above and beyond what they ever dreamed possible and for six years has become the "ultimate real world education experience in fundraising skills and getting hands-on lab experience."

A Midwinter Night's Dream Cryopreservation Laboratory is a research service core of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Researchers within all of the School's 25 departments will have access to the lab for ALS and other neuromuscular disease research and related investigation.
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