Monday, August 02, 2010

Molecule Discovery Might Help ALS Patients

(HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified a molecule that can reduce symptoms and prolong the life of mice with a type of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The molecule, called microRNA-206 (miR-206), is produced naturally by skeletal muscles in response to nerve damage caused by ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The molecule acts as a chemical signal to guide new nerve endings and maintain their interactions with muscles.

However, this research in mice suggests that miR-206 only works for a limited period of time. As nerves continue to die because of ALS, eventually surviving nerves can no longer compensate and symptoms such as muscle weakness begin to develop.

"While miR-206 initially prompts nearby surviving nerves to send new branches to the muscles, it only delays the inevitable," study senior author Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said in a university news release. Read more...

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