Researchers Uncover New Toxic Mechanism in ALS

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Lou Gehrig's Disease

Exactly how ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease - damages motor neurons is one of medical science's lingering mysteries. At least six mishaps within cells appear to contribute to the death of the nerves that enable muscle movement, but nothing stands out as the key problem.

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Now new studies by a Canadian research team and Japanese collaborators, with support from the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, strengthen earlier theories that whatever ultimately tips motor neurons onto their downhill path likely comes from outside the cells. The work describes a mechanism in which a warped, toxic molecule is secreted from cells into a motor neuron's environment, where it harms the neuron.

The studies, described in

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