Research NewsNeuroscience Meeting Brief 2

Faulty Protein Linked to ALS

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Science  06 Dec 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5293, pp. 1612
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5293.1612b

Summary

Washington, D.C.—Neuroscientists gathered here late last month for their largest annual meeting ever. The presentations covered a wide range of topics, from spinal cord injury. and obesity (Science, 29 November, p. 1466) to learning and neurodegenerative disease.

While neuroscientists have identified the gene at fault in some cases of hereditary amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), the cause of the much larger number of sporadic (nonhereditary) cases is unknown. Now researchers have found that synthesis of a protein needed for normal handling of the neurotransmitter glutamate is defective in half of sporadic ALS patients. If confirmed, the discovery might help explain what causes the neurodegeneration of the patients, because the defect could lead to a buildup of glutamate, which can be toxic to neurons in high concentrations.