A breakthrough that offers hope for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) has been made by researchers who identified a previously unknown mechanism involved in the development of the debilitating, fatal neurological disorder.
The Tel Aviv University researchers found that the motor neurons of ALS patients are destroyed by muscular toxins. They have also found an innovative approach that is the basis for a possible future drug – a specific microRNA molecule silences the genes that cause toxin secretion. The research focuses for the first time on a specific microRNA, whose levels were found to decrease as a result of ALS-causing muscular mutations.
ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that destroys nerve cells and causes permanent disability and death.
The study was led by Dr. Eran Perlson of the physiology and pharmacology department at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and conducted by TAU doctoral students Roy Maimon and Ariel Ionescu, in collaboration with Dr. Oded Behar of the Hebrew University’s department of developmental biology and cancer research. A paper on the breakthrough was recently published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience of the Washington, DC-based Society for Neuroscience.
“While we are not claiming we have found the cure for ALS, we have certainly moved the field forward,” Perlson said.