Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Stem cell model offers clues to cause of inherited ALS

An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have used induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to reveal for the first time how reduced levels of a specific protein may play a central role in causing at least one inherited form of the disease.

The work, published in the June 2011 online issue of the journal Human Molecular Genetics, could help scientists overcome a major hurdle in the study and treatment of ALS, an incurable neuromuscular disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS is universally fatal, with a median age of onset of 55 years and survival of two to five years after symptoms appear. Past research efforts have long been stymied by difficulties in translating successful drug tests in animal models of ALS to humans.

"There is an urgent need for ALS human models that can be translated into clinical trials to verify therapeutic targets in the human genetic background," said Alysson R. Muotri, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSD Departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and one of the study's senior authors. "Rodents have been used in the past and still have a critical impact in unveiling the complexity of ALS, but the vast majority of drugs that have demonstrated efficacy in rodent models have not done the same in preclinical and clinical human trials."

In the new work, Muotri and colleagues turned to iPSCs derived from the skin cells of patients with a familial form of ALS called ALS8 to create motor neurons that provided a novel in vitro model of the disease. iPSCs from ALS patients have been described before, but finding cellular and molecular phenotypes has proved to be a continuing challenge. The use of a familial form of ALS offered an advantage since the mutated gene could be tracked during motor neuron differentiation.

"We don't know what causes most cases of ALS, but for roughly 10 percent of patients with ALS, the disease is the result of inherited genetic mutations," Muotri said. "One of these familial forms is ALS8, which results from mutations in the VAPB gene. Using iPSCs from several patients from two independent families, we found that VAPB protein levels are reduced in ALS8-derived motor neurons compared to similar cells from non-carrier siblings of ALS8 patients."

Muotri said the finding suggests reduced VAPB protein levels may be a key to the development of ALS8 and perhaps other forms of the disease as well, including sporadic or non-hereditary ALS, where reduced VAPB protein levels have also been documented.

"The VAPB protein is involved in many cellular processes, so it seems likely it contributes to the pathogenesis of other forms of ALS," Muotri said. "We don't yet know how the loss of VAPB is involved in causing familial or sporadic ALS, but the new ability to study this disease in human cells provides an unprecedented opportunity to answer that question, to develop new early diagnostic tools and to identify new targets for future drugs and therapies."

Co-authors of the study are Miguel Mitne-Neto, UCSD Department of Pediatrics/Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, UCSD Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Human Genome Research Center, University of Sao Paulo; Marcela Machado-Costa, Helga A.C. Silva and Acary S.B. Oliveira, Federal University of Sao Paulo, Paulista School of Medicine; Maria C.N. Marchetto, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Mario H. Bengtson and Claudio A. Joazeiro, Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute; Hiroshi Tsuda and Hugo J. Bellen, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine; Monize Lazar and Mayana Zatz, Human Genome Research Center, Department of Genetic and Evolutive Biology, University of Sao Paulo.

Funding for this research came from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the neurons responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. It does not generally impair cognitive function. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Americans have ALS, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year. ALS strikes most commonly between the ages of 40 and 60, affecting men more often than women, but with no distinction of race or ethnic background. In 90 percent of all ALS cases, the disease appears to occur randomly without clearly associated risk factors. Ten percent of cases are inherited, due to gene mutations.

Scott LaFee | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>