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Growth Factor Deficiency

Growth factors stimulate cell growth and proper cell development, as well as regulating a variety of cell processes.

Several years ago, scientists discovered that mice carrying a human mutated VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) gene developed ALS symptoms, which led to the idea that VEGF might play a part in starting or maintaining ALS . The mutant mice failed to produce enough VEGF, also developing progressive loss of muscle function and motor neuron death.

In humans, a large study of European patients identified three different mutations in the VEGF gene as significant risk factors for ALS.

VEGF isn’t the only growth factor implicated. Like VEGF, other growth factors such as IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) and GCLN (glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor) also appear to have neuro-protective properties. In principle, loss or deficiency of these factors could make motor neurons more vulnerable to damage.

Ongoing clinical trials of VEGF should tell if it’s a useful therapy.

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Johns Hopkins University
Motor neurons can only work properly if the cell’s proteins can get to the right place at the right time. Thomas Lloyd uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to study how proteins are shuttled between the cell body and the synapse, as interruptions in this process have been linked to ALS. 
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University of Michigan
Sami Barmada wants to answer a very basic question about ALS: why motor neurons? Of all the different types of neurons in the body (and scientists estimate there are probably several hundred), it’s only motor neurons that are affected in ALS. Knowing why this is, Barmada believes, could be the key to developing new potential treatments that could prevent the deterioration and death of motor neurons. 
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