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Spinal fluid proteins signal Lou Gehrig's disease
Date:1/28/2009

High levels of certain proteins in the spinal fluid could signal the onset of Lou Gehrig's disease, according to researchers. The discovery of these biomarkers may lead to diagnostic kits for early diagnosis, accurately measuring the progression of the disease and monitoring the effects of treatment.

Lou Gehrig's disease -- or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) -- is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells controlling the voluntary movement of muscles. However, it is hard to diagnose because symptoms such as muscle weakness are common in other ailments and currently, there is no diagnostic test for the disease.

"The disease has to progress far enough so that the patient begins to experience significant muscle weakness, so that a physician can identify the problem," said James Connor, distinguished professor and vice-chair of neurosurgery, Penn State Hershey. "If we had a biomarker we could start treatments earlier and perhaps save more nerve cells and slow the disease."

The problem is compounded by the speed at which the disease progresses. In some patients the disease can run its course in just a couple of years, while in others it can take seven to ten years.

To find an early warning signal for the onset of Lou Gehrig's disease, Connor and his colleagues, Zachary Simmons and Ryan Mitchell at the Hershey Medical Center, focused their attention on proteins related to inflammation in the spinal cord. Studies show that the progression of the disease involves excessive inflammation of nerve cells. The team also argued that because these proteins tend to be much smaller than most other proteins, they are likely to be overlooked in large-scale protein studies.

The researchers extracted spinal fluid from two groups of patients. The first group, comprising 41 patients, was known to have Lou Gehrig's disease, while the second group of 31 patients complained of muscle problems such as weakness and cramps.

Next, the researchers tested th
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Contact: Amitabh Avasthi
axa47@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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