Visitor counter, Heat Map, Conversion tracking, Search Rank

Researchers discover blood biomarker for Lou Gehrig's disease, could lead to new treatments

August 6, 2012

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806130536.htm

In pre-clinical studies involving mice with an ALS gene mutation, the researchers saw that two months prior to ALS onset, monocytes in the spleen began exhibiting proinflammatory qualities. As disease onset loomed, there was an increase in cell-signaling molecules that directed monocytes to flood the spinal cord. Influx of these inflamed white blood cells was associated with nerve cell death in the spinal cord.

When the researchers treated the mice with antibodies to modulate the inflammatory monocytes, they found that it led to fewer monocytes entering the spinal cord, diminished nerve cell loss and extended survival.

After having observed these activities in mice, the BWH researchers, working with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) ALS Clinic and research team, found that there were similar monocytes in humans with ALS that also exhibited a disease-specific inflammatory signature.

"People have wondered if the immune system plays a role in neurological diseases like ALS," said Howard Weiner, MD, director of the BWH Multiple Sclerosis Program and senior study author. "The immune system is complicated, and previous immunotherapy trials have not been successful. But now we know what is wrong in the blood, and this opens up new therapeutic targets for ALS and perhaps other diseases in the near future."