A research team at Tel Aviv University said they have discovered a key mechanism that causes the neurodegenerative disease ALS, which may lead to treatment for the fatal illness, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.
The TAU group, along with researchers from Sheba Medical Center and institutes in Germany, France, the U.K. and U.S., found that a buildup of a protein called TDP-43 near neuromuscular junctions lies behind the degenerate process known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which paralysis and loss of the ability to walk, talk or even breathe.
“The paralysis caused by the disease results from damage to the motor neurons, which leads to the degeneration nerve endings and to the loss of muscle innervation,” Prof. Eran Perlson, who led the study with doctoral students Topaz Altman and Ariel Ionescu, said on Tuesday.
“This consequently leads to the degeneration of the nerve and the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord, however until now we could not understand the basic biological mechanism causing the initial damage behind this vicious cascade.”
By using a molecule to break down TDP-43 in animals, the scientists were able to restore motor neuron activity, which suggests that drugs can be developed to cure ALS in humans if diagnosed at an early enough stage, the researchers said.