Study finds pathway to ALS cure

August 22, 2011

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a devastating illness that can kill within three to five years, but a new Northwestern medicine study could change that.

Researchers have found a common cause of all forms of ALS. They've pinpointed a pathway, and it's a damaged protein called ubiquilin 2.

The malfunction of this protein seems to lead to the accumulation of damaged proteins in the brain and spinal cord neurons of ALS patients. This interferes with the nervous system's ability to carry signals, resulting in the gradual loss of movements such as swallowing and breathing.

Researchers say they can now test for drugs that can help the protein pathway function normally.

"What it means is that we have a focused pathway which can be used to study drugs that can normalize this pathway. I think in my almost 30 years of research of ALS, this is probably one of the most exciting moments." said Dr. Teepu Siddique, a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Researchers are hoping conventional drugs already out there will have the ability to fix this disease process. And they say the discovery may also help in the treatment of other neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Details on the report are in the journal Nature.

More information can also be found on the Les Turner ALS Foundation website

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