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Study identifies key player in motor neuron death in Lou Gehrig's disease
Date:3/26/2014

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 inv
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Contact: Gina Bericchia
Gina.Bericchia@NationwideChildrens.org
614-355-0487
Nationwide Children's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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