Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Molecular & Clinical Diagnostics
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Newly Identified Bone Marrow Stem Cells Reveal Markers for ALS

Published: Friday, July 12, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Genes could give new direction for diagnostics and therapeutics research, says a TAU researcher.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating motor neuron disease that rapidly atrophies the muscles, leading to complete paralysis. Despite its high profile — established when it afflicted the New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig — ALS remains a disease that scientists are unable to predict, prevent, or cure.

Although several genetic ALS mutations have been identified, they only apply to a small number of cases. The ongoing challenge is to identify the mechanisms behind the non-genetic form of the disease and draw useful comparisons with the genetic forms.

Now, using samples of stem cells derived from the bone marrow of non-genetic ALS patients, Prof. Miguel Weil of Tel Aviv University's Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Diseases and Personalized Medicine in the Department of Cell Research and Immunology and his team of researchers have uncovered four different biomarkers that characterize the non-genetic form of the disease. Each sample shows similar biological abnormalities to four specific genes, and further research could reveal additional commonalities. "Because these genes and their functions are already known, they give us a specific direction for research into non-genetic ALS diagnostics and therapeutics," Prof. Weil says. His initial findings were reported in the journal Disease Markers.

Giving in to stress

Although several genetic ALS mutations have been identified, they only apply to a small number of cases. The ongoing challenge is to identify the mechanisms behind the non-genetic form of the disease and draw useful comparisons with the genetic forms.

To hunt for these biomarkers, Prof. Weil and his colleagues turned to samples of bone marrow collected from ALS patients. Though more difficult to collect than blood, bone marrow’s stem cells are easy to isolate and grow in a consistent manner. In the lab, he used these cells as cellular models for the disease. He ultimately discovered that cells from different ALS patients shared the same abnormal characteristics of four different genes that may act as biomarkers of the disease. And because the characteristics appear in tissues that are related to ALS — including in muscle, brain, and spinal cord tissues in mouse models of genetic ALS — they may well be connected to the degenerative process of the disease in humans, he believes.

Searching for the biological significance of these abnormalities, Prof. Weil put the cells under stress, applying toxins to induce the cells' defense mechanisms. Healthy cells will try to fight off threats and often prove quite resilient, but ALS cells were found to be overwhelmingly sensitive to stress, with the vast majority choosing to die rather than fight. Because this is such an ingrained response, it can be used as a feature for drug screening for the disease, he adds.

The hunt for therapeutics

Whether these biomarkers are a cause or consequence of ALS is still unknown. However, this finding remains an important step towards uncovering the mechanisms of the disease. Because these genes have already been identified, it gives scientists a clear direction for future research. In addition, these biomarkers could lead to earlier and more accurate diagnostics.

Next, Prof. Weil plans to use his lab's high-throughput screening facility — which can test thousands of compounds' effects on diseased cells every day — to search for drug candidates with the potential to affect the abnormal expression of these genes or the stress response of ALS cells. A compound that has an impact on these indicators of ALS could be meaningful for treating the disease, he says.

Prof. Weil is the director of the new Cell Screening Facility for Personalized Medicine at TAU. The facility is dedicated to finding potential drugs for rare and Jewish hereditary diseases.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
When it Comes to Breast Cancer, Common Pigeon is No Bird Brain
If pigeons went to medical school and specialized in pathology or radiology, they’d be pretty good at distinguishing digitized microscope slides and mammograms of normal vs. cancerous breast tissue, a new study has found.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Biomedical Imaging at One-Thousandth the Cost
Mathematical modeling enables $100 depth sensor to approximate the measurements of a $100,000 piece of lab equipment.
Improving Outcomes for Lung Cancer and Diabetic Patients
Novel technologies have been developed with support from SBRI Healthcare funding.
New Way of Detecting Cancer
A new RNA test of blood platelets can be used to detect, classify and pinpoint the location of cancer by analysing a sample equivalent to one drop of blood.
Rapid, Portable Ebola Diagnostic
Scientists confirmed the efficiency of the novel Ebola detection method in field trials.
New, Better Test for Prostate Cancer
A study from Karolinska Institutet shows that a new test for prostate cancer is better at detecting aggressive cancer than PSA.
Blood Test Picks Out Prostate Cancer Drug Resistance
Scientists have developed a blood test that can identify key mutations driving resistance to a widely used prostate cancer drug, and identify in advance patients who will not respond to treatment.
Antibody Targets Key Cancer Marker
University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have created a molecular structure that attaches to a molecule on highly aggressive brain cancer and causes tumors to light up in a scanning machine.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos