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New clues in Lou Gehrig's battle

13th October 2009

A new joint US-Israeli study has shown how premature ageing plays a role in the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

stem cell research

The study shows that a certain type of T cell is found in reduced numbers in ALS patients.

Since the CD4+ T cell is produced by the thymus, doctors might be able to devise therapies that would support their growth, or even replace them altogether.

Michal Schwartz of the Weizmann Institute in Israel said that, if T-cell malfunction is confirmed to be a contributing factor to ALS, as we propose, therapeutic strategies may be aimed at overcoming this deficiency through rebuilding, restoring or transplanting the thymus.

The finding is backed up by evidence that suggests that the thymus plays an important part in protecting the health of the central nervous system.

Other studies have shown that it is possible to slow the progress of immune neurodegenerative diseases by boosting the number of T-cells in the body.

ALS attacks motor neurons, which are needed for muscle strength and movement.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers used mice that were bred to mimic human ALS.

They found that motor neurons began to malfunction at the same time as the thymus.

While the thymus gland normally matures in childhood and slowly shrinks as a person ages, the T cells it produces can live inside the body for as long as 30 years.

In the three ALS patients examined by the researchers, as well as in the mice who were bred to have a condition that behaved like human ALS, the thymus appeared to have aged drastically.

In other studies, patients with ALS were shown to lack five genes which are important for immune function.

Motor neurons run from the brain to the spinal cord and into the body's muscles.

The motor neurons damaged by ALS are those located in the spinal cord, a thing which renders sufferers unable to control their muscles.

Roughly 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS every year, and many of them die within five years of being diagnosed.

 

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Comments

jen

Wednesday 14th October 2009 @ 19:48

I really don’t think everyone needs to hear that most people diagnosed with ALS die within five years of being diagnosed. I’m really sick of hearing it. This was a great article until I read that. Why does everything always have to focus on the negative? I realize that it is the reality but how bout adding a positive note and say something like “with new studies and the hope of stem cell research, scientists are aiming to improve the life expectancy of those with ALS”.
Spread some hope…we need it!!

Rose Xavier

Thursday 15th October 2009 @ 3:43

i concur, Jen! I am so disheartened every time I read the life expectancy of people with ALS. Of course, the shock factor is always a cog in the wheel of making people pay attention and even care about ALS.... but for people living with the illness, it is another reminder that their days are numbered. We hope for an effective treatment for ALS soon and are thankful for this research.

Joyce

Friday 13th November 2009 @ 19:04

I AGREE with Jen too. When we hear of progress being made with ALS and it lifts your spirits up, why must it end with a Negative comment.


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