Dr. Michael Strong, a scientist with Western's Robarts Research Institute and Distinguished University Professor in Clinical Neurological Sciences at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and colleagues found that mutations within the ARHGEF28 gene are present in ALS.
When they looked across both familial and sporadic forms of the disease, they found that virtually all cases of ALS demonstrated abnormal inclusions of the protein that arises from this gene. The research is published online in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneratio, the official journal of The World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Motor Neuron Diseases.
ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive disease that affects the motor neurons that connect the brain to muscles throughout the body. It is a devastating disease with 90 per cent of patients dying within five years of diagnosis. As many as 30,000 Americans and 2,000 Canadians are living with ALS.Strong's team is convinced ALS is a disorder of RNA metabolism. RNA is the intermediary or messenger between genes and the protein being made. This new protein appears to play a critical role. "Every time we look at a cell degenerating, this particular protein was deposited abnormally in the cell. It was a common denominator," explains Strong, who is also the Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. "Working with Dr. Rob Hegele at Robarts, we found there was a genetic mutation in the gene coding for this protein. So it's a huge discovery."
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the ALS Society of Canada.
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