December 13, 2017

U of A Researchers Aid Fight Against ALS

Team outlines neural roadblock that stops muscle function.

Neurons (PHOTO: via Pixabay)

University of Arizona researchers think they’ve unlocked a mystery that answers a key question about ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

People who suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS, experience muscle paralysis. When the breathing muscles don’t work, the respiratory system won’t respond. Nearly half of those with ALS die within three years.

U of A biology professor Daniela Zarnescu has been investigating two proteins that are supposed to work together to connect muscles with the nervous system.

“Because of these proteins’ role in the correct communication between neuron and muscle, this process is altered," she said. "And in time, you end up with a failure of communication between neurons and muscles that leads to muscle paralysis, which is what patients of ALS are experiencing.”

Researchers say genetic mutations are the likely cause of the dysfunction between the two proteins. Their study was recently published in the journal Cell Reports.

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