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First trial in patients with a potential treatment of the incurable ALS muscle disease
Date:12/1/2008

Leuven (Belgium), Stockholm (Sweden) Permission has been granted to start the first safety and tolerability trial on patients for a remedy for ALS. ALS is an incurable, paralyzing neurodegenerative disorder that strikes 5 persons in every 100,000. The disease commonly affects healthy people in the most active period of their lives − without warning. Researchers from VIB at the K.U.Leuven have previously shown the possibilities for the use of VEGF in the treatment of ALS through work in animal models. The Swedish Biopharmaceutical company NeuroNova has already built upon this research. Together with UZ Leuven they'll start the first evaluation of safety and tolerability of the drug in patients by the end of this year. This is an important step in the development of a new treatment. It will take several years before the protein can be made available as a medicine.

An incurable disease of the muscles

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) can strike anyone. The Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, the legendary New York Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig, and astro-physicist Stephen Hawking have all been afflicted with ALS. About half of the patients dies within three years − some even in the first year − usually as a consequence of suffocation.

In ALS, the patient's nerve bundles that extend to the muscles deteriorate. As a result the patient loses control of the muscles, and progressively becomes paralyzed. The originating mechanism of this deadly disease of deterioration − which has an enormous medical and social impact − remains obscure. At present, the disease is totally untreatable.

VEGF: a promising candidate drug

VEGF is a substance that controls the growth of blood vessels. Unexpectedly, VEGF also helps neurons survive under stressful conditions. In 2001 Peter Carmeliet's team showed that too little VEGF causes ALS-like symptoms in mice. Late
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
sooike.stoops@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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