tel-avivTel Aviv University researchers report that they have identified four distinct biomarkers that characterize the non-genetic form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Using samples of stem cells derived from the bone marrow of non-genetic ALS patients, researchers observed that each sample exhibited similar biological abnormalities to four specific genes.

“Because these genes and their functions are already known, they give us a specific direction for research into non-genetic ALS diagnostics and therapeutics,” explains Miguel Weil, PhD, Tel Aviv University’s Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Personalized Medicine, department of Cell Research and Immunology.

The researchers note they used the bone marrow cells as cellular models of the disease. Next, the cells were put under stress, applying toxins to induce the cells’ defense mechanisms. While healthy cells will work to fight off threats, ALS cells prove highly sensitive to stress, with many dying as a result of a threat. Weil notes that the response may hold potential for drug screening for ALS.

The findings, researchers say, provide a clearer direction for future research. The biomarkers may also pave the way for earlier and more accurate diagnostics. Weil states that researchers will use his laboratory’s high-throughput screening facility to search for treatments with the potential to impact the abnormal expression of these genes or the stress response of ALS cells.

Source: Tel Aviv University