Yesterday morning I ran across the following article: “Researchers Say They’ve Found Common Cause of ALS.” I went on to read:
“The apparent discovery of a common cause of all forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) could give a boost to efforts to find a treatment for the fatal neurodegenerative disease, a new study contends.
Scientists have long struggled to identify the underlying disease process of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and weren't even sure that a common disease process was associated with all forms of ALS.
In this new study, Northwestern University researchers said they found that the basis of ALS is a malfunctioning protein recycling system in the neurons of the brain and spinal cord. Efficient recycling of the protein building blocks in the neurons are critical for optimal functioning of the neurons. They become severely damaged when they can't repair or maintain themselves.
This problem occurs in all three types of ALS: hereditary, sporadic and ALS that targets the brain, the researchers said.
The discovery, published Aug. 21 in the journal Nature, shows that all forms of ALS share an underlying cause and offers a common target for drug therapy, according to the researchers.”
Later there was a comment from Teepu Siddique at Northwestern, “This opens up a whole new field for finding an effective treatment for ALS.” He also stated, "We can now test for drugs that would regulate this protein pathway or optimize it, so it functions as it should in a normal state."
The article also said, “This finding about the breakdown of protein recycling in ALS may also prove useful in the study of other neurodegenerative diseases …”
After reading the article I asked Ed Meyertholen, our resident guru, what, if anything, this might mean for Kennedy’s Disease research. Ed responded, “Realize that this is not a clinical breakthrough - they have not ‘cured’ ALS. They are simply describing the mechanism of the disease.
The researchers are saying that ALS is the result of the inability of cells to adequately remove proteins. Specifically, the proteasome (the wood chipper) is defective. If you remember, it has been suggested that KD may be due to proteasome not being able to remove the mutant AR - so it fits in with this study even though it is a different disease. Thus it is possible that a treatment for ALS may also work with KD.”
Hey, I’ll take any positive news on the research front. You never know when someone might get lucky. We live with the hope that someday soon there will be a treatment for Kennedy’s Disease.