Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” affects neurons in the brain and spinal cord. It particularly affects the motor neurons causing muscle weakness and eventually muscle decay. There are two types of ALS, sporadic and familial. Sporadic accounts for the majority of the cases of these disease in the U.S. and it is not inherited. Familial, on the other hand, is inherited. This type only accounts for 5-10% of the cases in the U.S. A team of researchers directed by Dr. Laura Ferraiuol from the University of Sheffield discovered that oligodendrocyte brain cells play a significant role in the progression of ALS. These oligodendrocyte cells are glial cells that surround the neuron and produce myelin which wraps around the neuron cell and helps the signals run faster.
Dr. Ferraiuol and her team discovered that these oligodendrocyte cells can be destructive and cause cell death when taken in-vitro from ALS patients. Her team also found out that by decreasing the SOD-1 gene one can rescue the oligodendrocyte cells that cause damage to the surrounding cells. This is an important discovery because we are slowly starting to learn about the pathways involved when it comes to diseases like ALS. Dr Laura Ferraiuol proclaims, "The ability to model the communication between the cells dying during the disease, the motor neurons, and their surrounding neighboring cells is crucial for the development and timing of the therapies. With this rapid reprogramming protocol, we are a step closer to personalized medicine.". ALS and other genetics diseases like it can be further understood by examining the pathways used to exhibited or express the disease.
Nichols, H. (2016, September 28). "ALS: Breakthrough discovery of destructive brain cells." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Nerve support cell. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of an oligodendrocyte cell. This cell forms the myelin sheaths around nerve fibres in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The myelin provides nutrients structural. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2016, from http://www.visualphotos.com/image/2x4141041/nerve-support-cell-coloured-scanning-electron-micrograph-sem-of-an-oligodendrocyte-cell-this-cell-forms-the-myelin-sheaths-around-nerve-fibres-in-the-central-nervous-system-brain-and-spinal-cord-the-myelin-provides-nutrients-structural