Scientists discover a new genetic form of ALS in children
NIH- and USU-led study links ALS to a fat manufacturing gene and maps out a genetic therapy
In a study of 11 medical-mystery patients, an international team of researchers led by scientists at the National Institutes of Health and the Uniformed Services University (USU) discovered a new and unique form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Unlike most cases of ALS, the disease began attacking these patients during childhood, worsened more slowly than usual, and was linked to a gene, called SPTLC1, that is part of the body’s fat production system. Preliminary results suggested that genetically silencing SPTLC1 activity would be an effective strategy for combating this type of ALS.
“ALS is a paralyzing and often fatal disease that usually affects middle-aged people. We found that a genetic form of the disease can also threaten children. Our results show for the first time that ALS can be caused by changes in the way the body metabolizes lipids,” said Carsten Bönnemann, M.D., senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and a senior author of the study published in Nature Medicine. “We hope these results will help doctors recognize this new form of ALS and lead to the development of treatments that will improve the lives of these children and young adults. We also hope that our results may provide new clues to understanding and treating other forms of the disease.”
Dr. Bönnemann leads a team of researchers that uses advanced genetic techniques to solve some of the most mysterious childhood neurological disorders around the world. In this study, the team discovered that 11 of these cases had ALS that was linked to variations in the DNA sequence of SPLTC1, a gene responsible for manufacturing a diverse class of fats called sphingolipids.
This page was last updated on Friday, January 21, 2022