Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis May Involve A Form Of Sudden, Rapid Aging Of The Immune System

09.10.2009
Studies in laboratory mice and humans suggest that the immune system ages prematurely and malfunctions

Premature aging of the immune system appears to play a role in the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to research scientists from the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

A study published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine shows that CD4+ T cells, which grow and mature in the thymus before entering the bloodstream, are reduced in number in patients who have ALS as the thymus shrinks and malfunctions. Theoretically, devising therapies to support or replace these cells could be a strategy in treating the disease.

The research was led by Michal Schwartz, Ph.D., a visiting professor at the Center of Neuroimmunology and Neurogenesis in the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai and professor of neuroimmunology at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.

The findings are consistent with evidence collected over a decade by Schwartz’s group suggesting that a well-functioning immune system plays a pivotal role in maintaining, protecting and repairing cells of the central nervous system. Studies conducted in animals have shown that boosting immune T-cell levels may reduce symptoms and slow progression of certain neurodegenerative diseases.

Results from the current study suggest that premature aging of the immune system and thus a decrease in protection from immune T cells could contribute to the aggressive and rapid progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which attacks motor neurons – nerve cells responsible for muscle strength and voluntary movements. The researchers found that thymic malfunction occurs simultaneously with motor neuron dysfunction, both in laboratory mice bred to mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and in humans suffering from the disease.

Motor neurons extend from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles of the body. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis damages motor neurons in the spinal cord, leading to their death, the inability to control muscle action, and the wasting away of muscle tissue. About 5,600 people are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis each year. Up to 10 percent of cases are inherited because of certain gene mutations but the majority occur in the general population with no known cause.

Life expectancy varies greatly but generally ranges from two to five years after diagnosis. More than half of patients survive more than three years, and about 5 percent live 20 years, according to the ALS Association. The disease has been known to spontaneously stop progressing, and in rare cases, the symptoms have actually reversed. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is often referred to as Lou Gehrig disease in recognition of the baseball great whose career with the New York Yankees was cut short by the disease in 1939. He died two years later.

The thymus gland, where immune cells called T lymphocytes mature before entering the bloodstream, normally reaches its peak in size and production in childhood. It then slowly shrinks, becoming virtually nonexistent in the elderly, but the lifespan of newly produced T cells ranges from three to 30 years.

This study found that the thymus glands of mice and patients with the disease undergo accelerated degeneration. In addition to using laboratory tests that provide a noninvasive measure of thymic function, the researchers performed imaging scans on three relatively young patients and found no evidence of thymic remnants. Additional studies showed that patients with the disease had dramatically reduced numbers of five genes that are known to support immune responses. Patients also were found to have a significant deficiency of another gene that may make T cells susceptible to a process that causes cell death.

“If T-cell malfunction is confirmed to be a contributing factor to ALS, as we propose, therapeutic strategies may be aimed at overcoming this deficiency through rebuilding, restoring or transplanting the thymus,” said Schwartz, the journal article’s senior author.

The study was supported by the Israeli ALS Research Association, the Israeli Academy of Science, the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, and the Marciano Family Foundation.

Citation: The Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, “Thymic Involution in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,” published online July 24, 2009.

Sandy Van | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Further information:
http://www.csmc.edu/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>