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Sept. 11, 2009

Researchers Identify Genes Potentially Linked to Sporadic ALS 

A team of mathematicians, led by Professor Shuanglin Zhang at Michigan Technological University, employed a new statistical method that led to the identification of three genes that the investigators believe may be linked to the sporadic form of ALS, which occurs in individuals with no family history of the disease and accounts for 90 percent of cases diagnosed.

As part of this study, Zhang’s team analyzed the genetic codes of 547 individuals 276 with sporadic ALS and 271 without ALS.  Their method allowed the researchers to identify multiple genes associated with a complex illness.  However, additional research is needed to confirm their findings.   

 "Identification of genes linked to ALS has been extremely important in opening up new directions for ALS research and providing the tools to develop therapies for the disease,” commented Dr. Lucie Bruijn, senior vice president, Research and Development at The ALS Association. “In the case of familial ALS, several genes have now been identified.”  Familial ALS accounts for 10 percent of all cases diagnosed. 

“Given the results of this new study, we are looking forward to evaluating additional research needed to determine whether the genes discussed in the current publication are truly linked to the disease.” Dr. Bruijn continued.  “Replication studies will be necessary and comparison of this data with ongoing efforts will be important to validate findings." 

The data set the researchers analyzed was provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Human Genetics Resource Center at Coriell Institute, a publicly funded repository for human cells, DNA samples, clinical data, and other information that aims to accelerate research on the genetics of nervous system disorders.  The Association partnered with NINDS to establish the repository. 

A second study linking new genes to sporadic ALS was published this week in Nature Genetics. This multi-center study of 4,855 people with ALS and 14,953 controls, was led by ALS Association-funded investigators Roel Ophoff and Leonard van den Berg of the University Medical Center in Utrecht, The Netherlands. 

In the past two years there have been several publications indicating possible genes that may be linked to sporadic ALS.  Several of these studies have been funded by The ALS Association.  Most recently investigators identified a gene that may be associated with disease progression and survival. “The discovery of new genes for ALS is encouraging as it may provide new clues. The new genes for familial ALS reported earlier this year are certainly opening up exciting avenues for research and we hope that genetic studies about sporadic ALS will yield similar progress,” Dr. Bruijn stated. 

The ALS Association is committed to funding research that can lead to viable treatments and a cure for this disease.  To learn more about The Association’s global research program and how your gift can make a difference, visit our website.




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