New research has revealed how the fatal neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is transmitted from cell to cell, and that the spread of the disease could be blocked, Medical Xpress reports.
"This work identifies an important piece of the puzzle in determining how the disease is transmitted throughout the nervous system," says lead investigator Neil Cashman, M.D., with the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.
"By understanding how this occurs, we can devise the best ways to stop the progressive neurological damage seen in ALS."
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The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the progressive spread of ALS is tied to a defective protein known as SOD1 (superoxide dismutase 1) that can be transmitted from region to region in the nervous system.
The study also shows the spread can be blocked using antibodies designed to bind to regions of SOD1, which might arrest the progression of ALS, the researchers say.
ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing them to degenerate and die so that the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement.
There are approximately 140,000 new cases of ALS diagnosed worldwide each year.