Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal paralytic disease, may be triggered by faulty editing of messenger RNA inside the cell, a Brief Communication in Nature (26 February 2004, Vol. 427, No. 6977, p. 801) suggests.
Sufferers of ALS become paralysed as motor neurons - cells that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles - begin to waste away. Shin Kwak and colleagues analysed mesenger RNA from ALS patients and discovered a failure in the editing process that specifies the decoding of DNA into proteins. The result is that ALS patients carry a faulty version of the glutamate receptor - a protein that normally helps nerve cells to communicate. In turn, this may cause nerve cell death and paralysis.
Therapies designed to correct the defective editing process may yield improvements for ALS patients, they say.
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