Researchers identify new genetic mutation for ALS

January 15, 2013, University of Western Ontario
This is Dr. Michael Strong, Dean of Western University's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and ALS scientist at Robarts Research Institute. Credit: Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western Unviersity

Researchers at Western University in London, Canada, have identified a new genetic mutation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), opening the door to future targeted therapies. Dr. Michael Strong, a scientist with Western's Robarts Research Institute and Distinguished University Professor in Clinical Neurological Sciences at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and colleagues found that mutations within the ARHGEF28 gene are present in ALS. When they looked across both familial and sporadic forms of the disease, they found that virtually all cases of ALS demonstrated abnormal inclusions of the protein that arises from this gene.

The research is published online in and Frontotemporal Degeneratio, the official journal of The World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Motor Neuron Diseases.

ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive disease that affects the motor neurons that connect the brain to muscles throughout the body. It is a devastating with 90 per cent of patients dying within five years of diagnosis. As many as 30,000 Americans and 2,000 Canadians are living with ALS.

Using confocal microscopy, Dr. Michael Strong of Western University's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry shows how abnormal protein from the ARHGEF28 gene is deposited in a motor neuron from a person with ALS. Credit: Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University

Strong's team is convinced ALS is a disorder of RNA metabolism. RNA is the intermediary or messenger between genes and the being made. This new protein appears to play a critical role. "Every time we look at a cell degenerating, this particular protein was deposited abnormally in the cell. It was a common denominator," explains Strong, who is also the Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. "Working with Dr. Rob Hegele at Robarts, we found there was a genetic mutation in the gene coding for this protein. So it's a huge discovery."

Researchers at Western University in London, Canada, have identified a new genetic mutation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), opening the door to future targeted therapies. Dr. Michael Strong and colleagues found that mutations within the ARHGEF28 gene are present in ALS. Credit: Western University

Unlike most proteins which have one key function, this one has two. "One side works with RNA. The other side has the capacity to regenerate or to deal with an injury. We think those are competitive activities so if it's doing one, it's not available to do the other," says Strong. In the case of ALS, Strong believes the protein is disturbed on the RNA side so it's no longer able to respond to cell injury. "We need to understand what causes the switch between the two functions, and then can we modulate it."

Explore further: Disease progression halted in rat model of Lou Gehrig's disease

Related Stories

Disease progression halted in rat model of Lou Gehrig's disease

December 12, 2011
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) is an incurable adult neurodegenerative disorder that progresses to paralysis and death. Genetic mutations are the cause of disease in 5% of patients ...

Scientists identify mutation in SIGMAR1 gene linked to juvenile ALS

August 12, 2011
Researchers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have identified a mutation on the SIGMAR1 gene associated with the development of juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Study findings published today in Annals of Neurology, ...

Potential new drug target in Lou Gehrig's disease

November 14, 2011
Two proteins conspire to promote a lethal neurological disease, according to a study published online this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Recommended for you

Discovery of the 'pioneer' that opens the genome

January 23, 2018
Our genome contains all the information necessary to form a complete human being. This information, encoded in the genome's DNA, stretches over one to two metres long but still manages to squeeze into a cell about 100 times ...

Researchers identify gene responsible for mesenchymal stem cells' stem-ness'

January 22, 2018
Many doctors, researchers and patients are eager to take advantage of the promise of stem cell therapies to heal damaged tissues and replace dysfunctional cells. Hundreds of ongoing clinical trials are currently delivering ...

Genes contribute to biological motion perception and its covariation with autistic traits

January 22, 2018
Humans can readily perceive and recognize the movements of a living creature, based solely on a few point-lights tracking the motion of the major joints. Such exquisite sensitivity to biological motion (BM) signals is essential ...

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.