ALS has been around for quite some time. The first mentions of the condition date back as far as 1824. Since then, its prominence has grown significantly. Currently, it affects around 6400 Americans every year.
Yet it remains mysterious.
In fact, the exact cause of ALS isn’t known. It’s a major reason why treatment for it is so scarce. You can’t fix something when you don’t know what’s broken.
But thanks to a new breakthrough at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, scientists have just taken a big step forward in understanding the disease. One that could lead to working treatment.
Finding a Needle in a Stack of Needles
For some time, scientists have known that ALS is connected with a mutation in a protein known as SOD1. The trouble is, the human body contains over 100,000 different proteins. Figuring out what the mutated SOD1 looked like proved to be a serious challenge.
A team of researchers at UNC School of Medicine have been able identify this deadly protein. They spent two years developing a way to trace the damage in the brain caused by this mutation. From there, they used a combination of algorithms and computer models to create a modal of the SOD1.
They discovered that it formed into clumps of three proteins called “trimmers”. When proteins are clumped into sets of three, they become unstable in the body. In the case of SOD1, they’re capable of killing motor neurons. The death of motor neurons is ultimately what leads to the loss of function and mobility in ALS.
Non-clumped SOD1 proteins, meanwhile, are harmless. If scientists can now create a way to break up these clumps of proteins, they could theoretically stop the progression of ALS.
This Doesn’t Just Benefit ALS
According to one of the lead researchers in the project, neurodegenerative diseases have many similarities across the board. This breakthrough combined with what we know about conditions such as Alzheimer’s could have a major impact on the treatment of neuron-related problems.
Whatever happens next, you can find us talking about it here at Rollx Vans, your provider for wheelchair vans.
How would a breakthrough in neurodegenerative treatment affect your life?