Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study identifies key player in motor neuron death in Lou Gehrig's disease


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is marked by a cascade of cellular and inflammatory events that weakens and kills vital motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord.

The process is complex, involving cells that ordinarily protect the neurons from harm. Now, a new study by scientists in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital points to a potential culprit in this good-cell-gone-bad scenario, a key step toward the ultimate goal of developing a treatment.

Motor neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain and spinal cord control the function of muscles throughout the body. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), motor neurons die and muscles weaken. Patients gradually lose the ability to move and as the disease progresses, are unable to breathe on their own. Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms.

For the study, published online this month in Neuron, researchers examined a protein involved in transcriptional regulation, called nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), known to play a role in the neuroinflammatory response common in ALS. NF-ƘB has also been linked to cancer and a number of other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Using animal models, the researchers studied disease progression in mice in which NF-ƘB had been inhibited in two different cell types — astrocytes, the most abundant cell type in the human brain and supporters of neuronal function; and microglia, macrophages in the brain and spinal cord that act as the first and main form of defense against invading pathogens in the central nervous system. Inhibiting NF-ƘB in microglia in mice slowed disease progression by 47 percent, says Brian Kaspar, MD, a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Children's and senior author of the new study.

"The field has identified different cell types in addition to motor neurons involved in this disease, so one of our approaches was to find out what weapons these cells might be using to kill motor neurons," Dr. Kaspar says. "And our findings suggest that the microglia utilize an NF-κB-mediated inflammatory response as one of its weapons."

Inhibiting the protein in astrocytes had no impact on disease progression, so the search for the weapons that cell type uses against motor neurons continues. These preliminary findings also don't tell scientists how or why NF-κB turns the ordinarily protective microglia into neuron-killing molecules. But despite the mysteries that remain, the study moves scientists closer to finding a treatment for ALS.

The search for an ALS therapy has been focused in two directions: identifying the trigger that leads to disease onset and understanding the process that leads to disease progression. Changes in motor neurons are involved in disease onset, but disease progression seems to be dictated by changes to astrocytes, microglia and oligodendrocytes. Some cases of ALS are hereditary but the vast majority of patients have no family ties to the disease. The complexity of the disease and the lack of a clear familiar tie make screening before disease onset nearly impossible, highlighting the importance of slowing the disease, Dr. Kaspar says.

"Focusing on stopping the changes that occur in astrocytes and microglia has clinical relevance because most people don't know they're getting ALS, says Dr. Kaspar, who also is an associate professor of pediatrics and neurosciences at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "We have identified a pathway in microglia that may be targeted to ultimately slow disease progression in ALS and are exploring potential therapeutic strategies and may have broader implications for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease amongst others."

Gina Bericchia | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: astrocytes death diseases findings microglia muscles neurons progression spinal weapons

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht University of California Scientists Create Malaria-Blocking Mosquitoes
30.11.2015 | University of California, Irvine

nachricht ARTORG and Inselspital develop artificial pancreas
26.11.2015 | Universitätsspital Bern

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: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Teamplay IT solution enables more efficient use of protocols

30.11.2015 | Trade Fair News

Greater efficiency and potentially reduced costs with new MRI applications

30.11.2015 | Trade Fair News

Modular syngo.plaza as a comprehensive solution – even for enterprise radiology

30.11.2015 | Trade Fair News

More VideoLinks >>>