Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Targeting astrocytes slows disease progression in ALS

In what the researchers say could be promising news in the quest to find a therapy to slow the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have shown that targeting neuronal support cells called astrocytes sharply slows disease progression in mice.

The study, conducted in the laboratory of Don Cleveland, Ph.D., UCSD Professor of Medicine, Neurosciences and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, will appear in the advance online publication on Nature Neuroscience's website on February 3rd.

“Mutant genes that cause ALS are expressed widely, not just in the motor neurons,” Cleveland explained. “Targeting the partner cells like astrocytes, which live in a synergistic environment with the neuron cells, helps stop the ‘cascade of damage.’ Therapeutically, this is the big news.”

ALS is a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurons, long and complex nerve cells that reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body, which act to control voluntary movement. Degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS leads to progressive loss of muscle control, paralysis and untimely death. Estimated to affect some 30,000 Americans, most people are diagnosed with ALS between the ages of 45 and 65. Typically, ALS patients live only one to five years after initial diagnosis.

In findings published in Science in June 2006, Cleveland and his colleagues showed that in early stages of inherited ALS, small immune cells called microglia are damaged by mutations in the SOD1 protein, and that these immune cells then act to significantly accelerate the degeneration of the motor neurons. The new study demonstrates that much the same thing happens to astrocytes, support cells that are essential to neuronal function, and whose dysfunction is implicated in many diseases. The researchers speculate that the non-neuronal cells play a vital role in nourishing the motor neurons and in scavenging toxins from the cellular environment. As with microglia, the helper role of astrocytes is altered due to mutations in the SOD1 protein.

“We tested what would happen if we removed the mutant gene from astrocytes in mouse models,” said Cleveland. “What happened was it doubled the lifespan of the mouse after the onset of ALS.”

Astrocytes are key components in balancing the neurotransmitter signals that neurons use to communicate. To examine whether mutant SOD1 damage to the astrocytes contributes to disease progression in ALS, researchers in the Cleveland lab used a genetic trick to excise the mutant SOD1 gene, but only in astrocytes. Reduction of the disease-causing mutant SOD1 in astrocytes did not slow disease onset or early disease; however, the late stage of the disease was extended, nearly doubling the normal life expectancy of a mouse with ALS.

“Silencing the mutant gene in the astrocytes not only helps protect the motor neuron, but delays activation of mutant microglia that act to accelerate the progression of ALS,” said Cleveland.

The findings show that mutant astrocytes are likely to be viable targets to slow the rate of disease spread and extend the life of patients with ALS. Cleveland added that this may prove especially important news to researchers in California and elsewhere working with stem cells. “This gives scientists a good idea of what cells should be replaced using stem cell therapy. Astrocytes are very likely much easier to replace than the slow-growing motor neuron.”

Debra Kain | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>