New Insights into ALS

Study suggests inflammatory proteins in innate immune system may damage neurons, lead to ALS

Neuron cell close-up view - 3d rendered image of Neuron cell on black background. SEM view interconnected neurons synapses. Abstract structure conceptual medical image. Synapse. Healthcare concept.
Image of neuron cell and interconnected neurons synapses. Image: Koto_feja/iStock/Getty Images E+ Collection

For physicians, scientists, and patients, neurodegenerative diseases, which affect millions of people in this country and hundreds of millions across the world, remain a formidable foe. An array of treatments can help alleviate symptoms and slow progression, but a cure has remained elusive.

Now, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital have identified proteins involved in the innate immune system that could be at the root of a range of neurodegenerative conditions.

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The findings, based on experiments in mice and human nerve cells and published March 13 in Neuron, point to new pathways for slowing neuronal dysfunction and treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal motor neuron disease.

Specifically, the researchers found that inactivating a molecule in the brain linked to inflammation prevents cellular damage in human neurons and delays the progression of ALS in mice.