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GEN News Highlights : Nov 30, 2006

Scan of Human Genome Finds Unexpected New Clues on Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Findings implicate genes that may produce a sort of molecular glue that eventually causes nerve death.

A comprehensive scan of the human genome has identified more than 50 genetic abnormalities in people with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) reported. TGen researchers say the identified differences implicate genes likely to play a role in cell function that controls nerve adhesion, offering a new avenue for ALS research.

“Our findings indicate these genes produce a sort of molecular glue that attaches motor neurons to muscle,” explains Dietrich Stephan, TGen director of Neurogenomics. “It appears that in ALS the nerve is able to peel off the muscle and when that happens repeatedly, the nerves die.”

TGen researchers identified the differences by screening DNA samples from over 1,200 people with and 2,000 people without sporadic ALS using microarray technology from Affymetrix.