Nerve cell degeneration in a mouse model of Lou Gehrig's disease can be slowed by transplantation of healthy glial cell precursors, reports a study published online in Nature Neuroscience. The research could have implications for future treatment of this devastating condition.
Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is caused by degeneration and death of motor neurons, the nerve cells that drive all muscles. Recent work has shown that astrocytes, a type of supporting glial cells, are also affected in ALS.
Based on these reports, Nicholas Maragakis and colleagues attempt to cure mice suffering from an ALS-like condition with a transplantation of astrocyte precursors. The transplanted cells survived in the spinal cord, and mice that received transplants survived longer, though they were not completely cured. The beneficial effect required the presence of a particular transporter protein in the astrocyte precursors. This transporter may help to remove any toxic excess of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which may be a contributing factor to ALS, from the motor neurons' surroundings.
Nicholas Maragakis (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA)
Abstract available online.(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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