Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rare, lethal childhood disease tracked to protein

30.04.2013
A team of international researchers led by Northwestern Medicine scientists has identified how a defective protein plays a central role in a rare, lethal childhood disease known as Giant Axonal Neuropathy, or GAN. The finding is reported in the May 2013 Journal of Clinical Investigation.

GAN is an extremely rare and untreatable genetic disorder that strikes the central and peripheral nervous systems of young children. Those affected show no symptoms at birth; typically around age three the first signs of muscle weakness appear and progress slowly but steadily. Children with GAN experience increasing difficulty walking and are often wheelchair-bound by age 10. Over time, they become dependent on feeding and breathing tubes. Only a few will survive into young adulthood.

In GAN patients, nerve cells are swollen with massive build-ups of structures called intermediate filaments, cytoskeletal components that give cells their shape and mechanical properties. Goldman's team found that gigaxonin, a protein encoded by the gene involved in GAN, regulates normal turnover of the protein building blocks that form a cell's intermediate filaments. Mutations in this gene result in the malfunctioning of gigaxonin, which leads to the abnormal build-up of intermediate filaments and eventually disrupts the normal functioning of nerve cells.

"This important new research pinpoints the mechanism that allows intermediate filaments to rapidly build up in GAN patients," says Robert Goldman, chair of the department of cell and molecular biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Goldman has studied the structural proteins of cells for more than 30 years.

"This is a huge step forward for GAN research," said Lori Sames, co-founder and CEO of Hannah's Hope Fund, the leading GAN disease organization. "GAN is juvenile ALS, but even worse. Not only do motor neurons die out, so do the sensory neurons. To find a medicinal therapy, you really need to know what mechanism to target. And thanks to Dr. Goldman's work, now we do."

To identify gigaxonin's role, scientists used cells known as fibroblasts obtained from skin biopsies of children with GAN. The cells were then grown in lab cultures, and they also contained large abnormal aggregates of intermediate filaments. When scientists introduced healthy gigaxonin genes into both control and patient fibroblasts, the results were dramatic. The abnormal aggregates of intermediate filaments disappeared. However, the cytoskeleton's two other major systems, microtubules and actin filaments were not affected by this treatment.

The study's lead author, Northwestern University postdoctoral fellow Saleemulla Mahammad, stressed that this discovery may also have implications for more common types of neurodegenerative diseases that are also characterized by large accumulations of intermediate filament proteins, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

"Our results suggest new pathways for disease intervention," he said. "Finding a chemical component that can clear the intermediate filament aggregations and restore the normal distribution of intermediate filaments in cells could one day lead to a therapeutic agent for many neurological disorders."

Mahammad and other members of the Goldman Laboratory collaborated with Puneet Opal, M.D., associate professor in the Ken and Ruth Davee department of neurology and cell and molecular biology, along with researchers in the laboratory of Pascale Bomont, at the INSERM neurological institute in Montpelier, France, and the laboratory of Jean-Pierre Julien at the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada.

This research was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences NIH grant 1P01GM096971-01 and Hannah's Hope Fund. The leading GAN disease foundation, Hannah's Hope Fund, was established in 2008, and currently knows of 38 cases of the disease worldwide. The foundation is currently working towards funding a clinical trial for GAN gene therapy.

Marla Paul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

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

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>