Tweaking Genes Could Extend ALS Survival

THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. scientists say they've spotted genes that influence survival in mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The University of Iowa researchers say the finding may have implications for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases in humans.

The team found that two cell-signaling proteins, called Nox1 and Nox2, appear to play an important role in the progression of an inherited form of ALS. Deleting either Nox1 or Nox2 from mice with this inherited form of ALS significantly increased the rodents' life span.

The deletion of Nox2 had the most impact -- nearly doubling the life span of the mice and significantly increasing the time from disease onset to death (survival index). This is the first study to identify a single gene that affects survival index in animals with ALS, the researchers said.

The study is in the Sept. 13 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"The findings provide encouraging data that there are new potential therapeutic targets in ALS," research team leader John Engelhardt, professor and head of anatomy and cell biology, said in a prepared statement.

"Whether our findings will bear out in humans still has to be evaluated, but our results suggest that inhibiting Nox proteins might significantly enhance survival in ALS," he said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Iowa, news release, Sept. 13, 2007

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