AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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New Gene Identified in Lou Gehrig’s Disease

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Newly revealed disease mechanism points to a potential target for treatment 

For the first time, a variant in UBQLN4 gene has been associated with Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a progressive disease resulting in the loss of nerve cells that control muscle movement, which eventually leads to paralysis and death. The study also describes how this gene variant disrupts a cellular process that drives motor neuron development. This new insight opens the door to potential treatment targets for ALS. “We know that many genes are involved in ALS and a major goal in the field is to identify as many of these genes as we can so we can uncover targets for treatment at the cellular level,” says lead author Brittany Edens from Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “We found that UBQLN4 gene variant interferes with a pathway involved in breaking down a certain protein called beta catenin, and the resulting accumulation of this protein leads to defects in the motor neuron structure. These defects likely make motor neurons vulnerable to progressive degeneration seen in ALS.”

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