September 21, 2010

Stopping Nerve Death in ALS

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Researchers have found a way to improve the lives of animals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Investigators from the University of California, San Francisco prevented symptom onset, weight loss, and paralysis in a mouse model of ALS. They were also able to extend lives.

ALS is a neurological disorder that affects cells that control voluntary muscle activities such as speaking, walking, breathing, swallowing and general movement. One characteristic of ALS is that the nerve cells die by a process known as apoptosis. Determining whether this cell death contributes to the disease or occurs after nerves stop functioning is key to establishing whether blocking apoptosis is beneficial.

In the study, genetically eliminating activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway preserved nerve cell viability and function, thus helping animals with the disease.

According to the ALS Association, ALS affects more than 5,600 people in the U.S. each year. About 30,000 Americans are living with the disease at any given time.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, September 2010