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Protein test is first to predict rate of progression in Lou Gehrig’s disease
Date:11/19/2012

There are no curative or even significantly beneficial therapies in clinics now for ALS treatment, but many are in development, Dr. Boylan says. A test like this could help identify those patients who are at risk for faster progression of weakness. With experimental treatments that primarily slow progression of ALS, detecting a treatment response in patients with faster progression may be easier to detect, says Dr. Boylan. Now, patients with varying rates of progression participate together in clinical studies, which can make analysis of a drug's benefit difficult, he says.

"If there were a way to identify people who are likely to have relatively faster progression, it should be possible to conduct therapeutic trials with smaller numbers of patients in less time than is required presently," Dr. Boylan says.

A longer-range goal is to develop tests of this kind to gauge how well a patient is responding to experimental therapies, he adds.

The test measures neurofilament heavy form in blood and spinal fluid. These are proteins that provide structure to motor neurons, and when these nerves are damaged by the disease, the proteins break down and float free in blood serum and in the spinal fluid. Earlier research in this area was conducted by Gerry Shaw, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Florida, who is the study's senior investigator and the developer of the neurofilament assay used in the study.

The researchers measured neurofilament heavy form in blood and spinal fluid samples from patients at Mayo Clinic and at Emory University, and correlated levels of the protein with rate of progression. "We demonstrated a solid association between higher levels of this protein and a faster progression of muscle weakness," Dr. Boylan says. There was also evidence suggesting that ALS patients with higher protein levels may have shorter survival, he adds.


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Contact: Kevin Punsky
punsky.kevin@mayo.edu
904-953-2299
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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