Mice stem cells are currently being used to help solve the mystery of what causes ALS that may lead to a drug treatment for this incurable disease. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease caused by the deterioration of motor neurons. ALS is marked by the gradual collapse of the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. The disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body.
In two studies funded by “Project ALS” and recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, stem cells from mice were used to generate batches of cells that imitated ALS. Having these cells available enabled scientists to conduct vital basic medical research.
To date, researchers do not know whether motor neurons in ALS die because of a problem from within or outside of the cell. The scientists observed that non-neuronal cells called astrocytes may have a toxic effect on motor neurons in ALS. The identity of the toxin is still unknown, however researchers feel further investigations will provide them the answer.
Illustration: Free Wallpaper Website.
Therapeutics Daily (1) (04/16/07)
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Science Daily (04/18/07)
Medpage Today (04/25/07)