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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 2, 2019

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SLU Researcher Hones in on Plaque-causing Protein in ALS and Dementia

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In a recent paper, Yuna Ayala, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University (SLU), and her research team made advances in understanding how a protein causes damaging plaques to build up in neurodegenerative illnesses like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a form of dementia called frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Ayala and her lab study TDP-43, a protein that binds to RNA and plays a role in gene expression. In 2006, researchers discovered that TDP-43 was the main feature of neurological disorders like ALS and frontotemporal dementia. DP-43 is an important protein tied to cell survival, metabolism and function that has been conserved by evolution in animals from flies to humans. Without TDP-43, scientists see animals develop locomotive defects and shortened lifespans. 

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