Human protein may dramatically increase lifespan in Lou Gehrigs patients

November 28th, 2007 - 5:39 pm ICT by admin  

Washington , Nov 28(ANI): Injections of a protein normally found in human cells have been found to be effective in increasing lifespan and delaying the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also know as Lou Gehrigs disease, in a study of mice.

ALS is a disease that causes death of motor neurons, the nerve cells that control muscles.

Lead researcher David Gifondorwa, a Ph.D. candidate at Wake Forest , said that the treatment of recombinant heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) increased the lifespan of the mice models of the condition by 10 per cent during the study.

The finding attains significance as the increase in mices lifespan observed in the study was substantially greater than the benefits that a treatment with Riluzole, the only ALS treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could provide.

The researchers, however, cautioned that the treatment was yet not ready for human studies.

This is another piece in the puzzle of what causes ALS and how to best treat it. Its possible that one day a treatment based on this finding could be part of a cocktail for attacking the disease from different fronts, said David Gifondorwa.

There are two sets of motor neurons affected in ALSupper motor neurons that are located in the brain and brainstem, and lower motor neurons that are located in the spinal cord but send out nerve fibers, or transmission lines, to connect with muscles.

But the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was focused on the lower motor neurons.

Previous studies had shown that before the motor neuron dies, it first detaches, or denervates, from the muscle.

There is a growing amount of research that suggests denervation is what happens first, said senior researcher Dr. Carol Milligan.

Our hope is that the results of our study will help steer thinking into focusing on what happens at the junction of nerve and muscle. It is possible that if we can develop treatments to maintain the contact of nerves and muscle, we can maintain the health of the motor neurons longer, he added.

The genetically engineered mice in the study were randomly administered a placebo, Riluzole, or Hsp70. The mice received injections of Hsp70 thrice a week beginning 50 days after birth.

In the Hsp70 treated mice, lifespan increased by 10 days, compared to one day in the Riluzole group.

The treatment was not detected in the central nervous system, leading the researchers to believe that it acts not in the spinal cord, but where the neurons attach to muscle. Treatment with Hsp70 resulted in an increased number of innervated muscles, compared to the other groups.

The protein seems to work at the neuromuscular junction, said Gifondorwa.

Because current ALS treatments work at the spinal cord, our finding suggests the possibility of a cocktail that works to prevent damage in both locations may prove more beneficial.

The scientists are currently researching into new ALS treatments, besides trying to understand what goes wrong to cause the disease. In humans with ALS, they hope to look at early muscle changes using advanced imaging technology. (ANI)

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