Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Promising results in the battle against incurable ALS muscle disease

30.11.2004


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.

Sooike Stoops | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vib.be

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>