June 22 – Day 10: Lynchburg, VA., to Winston-Salem, N.C.: Dog Days of Summer

Greg is Missing Indiana

Today we had a very challenging ride on rolling hills, punctuated by several encounters with dogs. The first one was very small and chased us down the road for quite a while, at a safe distance. The second one looked like a pit bull, and we were a bit concerned because he was missing one ear. When the third one showed up, Greg dropped his water bottle behind the bike to distract him – and when we went back for the bottle, the dog was guarding it. With the fourth and fifth dogs, we figured out that a squirt from the water bottle is most effective at discouraging them. It was enough to give even dog lovers like us some second thoughts.

We're in North Carolina!

Even though the terrain was hilly, the scenery was just gorgeous. Fortunately, our friends at Knollwood Country Club in Granger – Kelly, Greg, Tom and Cheryl – had us prepared for the hills. We’ll see if they can get us up and over the Smokies coming up soon. Certainly, Stephanie’s yoga stretches have come in handy, and Jessica’s step class got the quads and calves good to go. Since Jenny and Kim like to get your heart rate way up, I have discovered a new Skills and Drills exercise – ride a bike up a hill being chased by an angry, large mastiff! Believe me, it works. Thank you, Knollwood.

Descriptive Town Name?

Today was the first evening on the trip when we did not have an event or meeting scheduled. We stayed with our Destination Cycling expert Peter’s brother Tim and Tim’s wife Susan in Winston-Salem. Their daughter, Erin, just graduated from high school and will be going to college this fall. Susan called a Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s family in the neighborhood. Ann, who graduated from Saint Mary’s, came over, and we had a lot of Notre Dame stories to swap. Peter’s sister Lizzy took us to the pool for a nice relaxing swim. They were all very hospitable. We had a wonderful evening, fabulous food, great conversations and many laughs. Thank you.

The Doran Clan in Winston Salem -- Thank You for Your Hospitality!

Today was a day of reflection – not having meetings tonight enabled us to think more about our trip and what is going on at Notre Dame. The NPC children, of course, are the chief inspiration for our ride, the faces we remember when the pedaling gets tough on the road in the summer heat and the dogs show up. But we are surrounded with so many kinds of inspiration, including the terrific researchers at Notre Dame. For example, I am very proud of the work in Professor Paul Helquist’s laboratory in Chemistry and Biochemistry that is making great strides against Niemann-Pick Type C. In addition to Professor Helquist, the team includes undergraduates Nathan Farley, Tyler Hulett, Christopher Mariani and Luke Westby as well as graduate students Pauline Bourbon, Katherine Byrd, Casey Cosner, John Markiewicz, Jacob Plummer and Douglas Schauer.

Prof. Paul Helquist

The Helquist lab is part of a collaboration with the labs of Professors Olaf Wiest at Notre Dame and Fred Maxfield at Cornell University Weill College of Medicine, which recently made a significant breakthrough in the fight against NPC. They found that a class of small molecule drugs, known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, restores normal lipid distribution in NPC mutant cells. Because the genetic defect that causes NPC prevents the normal processing of these lipids, HDAC inhibitors could be effective against the disease. One exciting element is that some of these drugs, including a cancer treatment called SAHA, have already been approved by the FDA to treat other diseases, meaning that they might be on the market without the long years of clinical trials required for new drugs.

It is great to be a small part of such a large overall effort to fight NPC. In the homes where families care for the wonderful children, in the labs where the scientists are discovering such hopeful drugs, in the clinics where trials are moving us closer to the goal – and on the Road to Discovery where we make our uphill climbs (and fend off dogs) – each of us contributes what we can to the common cause.

1 Comment so far

  1.    Anneke de Bont on June 23rd, 2011

    Fantastisch dat jullie in zo,n goede spirit zijn Heel veel geluk en sterkte met de hoge bergen maar misschien geen honden zo hoog. Hier is alles goed maar het weer is vreselijk. Good Luck Love ,Mama,Anneke en Michaela en Ally