Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Promising results in the battle against incurable ALS muscle disease

29.11.2004


ALS is an incurable, paralyzing neurodegenerative disorder that strikes 5 persons in every 100,000. The disease commonly affects healthy people in the most active period of their lives − without warning or previous family history. Researchers from VIB (the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology), under the direction of Prof. Peter Carmeliet (Catholic University of Leuven), have previously shown the importance of the VEGF protein in this disease. Now, new research from this group shows that rats with a severe form of ALS live longer following the administration of the VEGF protein as a remedy. These results open up new possibilities for the use of VEGF in the treatment of ALS.

An incurable disease of the muscles

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) can strike anyone. The Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, Russian composer Dimitri Sjostakowitz, the legendary New York Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig, and astro-physicist Stephen Hawkins have all been afflicted with ALS. In addition, an unusually large number of Italian professional soccer players, airline pilots, and soldiers from the Golf War have been stricken by this fatal disease. About half of them have died within three years − some even in the first year − and usually as a consequence of asphyxiation, while still ‘in full possession of their faculties’.



In ALS, the patient’s nerve bundles that extend to the muscles deteriorate. This causes the patient to lose control over his/her muscles, growing progressively paralyzed − but remaining (disconcertingly) fully alert mentally. The originating mechanism of this deadly disease of deterioration − which has an enormous medico-social impact − remains obscure. At present, the disease is totally untreatable − causing many ALS patients to choose euthanasia, a very controversial solution. However, previous genetic research by Peter Carmeliet and his team at the Catholic University of Leuven has led to the surprising discovery that the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays a major role in this disease.

VEGF: a promising track to follow

VEGF is a signaling substance that controls the growth of blood vessels. To a large extent, a tissue in need of oxygen manufactures the protein, thereby developing new blood vessels so that the need for oxygen again diminishes. VEGF also helps neurons survive under stressful conditions. Last year, the work of Peter Carmeliet’s team showed that persons who produce too little VEGF − due to certain variations in the gene that codes for VEGF − have a greater chance of developing ALS. Earlier this year, their research proved that gene therapy with the VEGF gene increased the life expectancy of ALS mice by 30%. But gene therapy is still a controversial method of treatment, whose path to the clinic can be quite long.

VEGF prolongs the life of ALS rats

So, investigation into a possible treatment using the VEGF protein has never been abandoned. Now, research from Erik Storkebaum and Diether Lambrechts, under Peter Carmeliet’s direction, has shown the effectiveness of such a treatment on ALS rats. Testing the treatment on rats with a severe form of ALS and on rats with a milder form, the researchers found that, in both groups, the VEGF-treated rats contracted the disease later than the untreated animals, and they continued to live considerably longer.

The researchers also investigated what the optimal technique would be for administering VEGF. An ordinary injection proved to be ineffective. But continuous administration of the VEGF protein − by means of a small pump − directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that circulates around the brain and the spinal cord) was quite effective.

New hope for patients

Furthermore, this technique permits a patient-oriented approach by enabling the administered dose of the VEGF protein to be easily controlled. Ten years ago, treatment with other proteins was tried on patients with ALS, but without success. At that time, however, this method of continuous administration had not yet been tested on animals with ALS. Therefore, the success of VEGF in these test cases offers new hope for trying out proteins such as VEGF on patients with ALS.

But although these results are very encouraging, there is still a long way to go before there can be talk of a new remedy. Regulated studies on ALS patients will have to demonstrate the therapeutic effect of VEGF on ALS before the protein can be made available as a medicine − and such procedures can easily last several more years.
Relevant scientific publications

The research of the VIB scientists from Peter Carmeliet’s group appears on the website of the authoritative journal Nature Neuroscience (www.nature.com/neurosci)

Sooike Stoops | alfa
Further information:
http://www.vib.be
http://www.nature.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception
25.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für biologische Kybernetik

nachricht Studying a catalyst for blood cancers
25.04.2017 | University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Warm winds: New insight into what weakens Antarctic ice shelves

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>