Breaking research news: Ice Bucket donations help identify new ALS gene!
On a recent webinar, John Landers, Ph.D. discussed this important finding and answered questions about NEK1.
By John E. Landers, Ph.D.
I am excited to share that my team at University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues around the world have identified a new ALS gene, NEK1, which now ranks high among the most common genetic factors associated with ALS.
NEK1 is now known as one of the most common genetic contributors of ALS.
NEK1 was discovered by more than 80 researchers in 11 countries who contribute to Project MinE’s global DNA sequencing effort. Project MinE is the largest precision medicine program of its kind, which is examining the genetic makeup of 15,000 people living with ALS and 7,500 healthy people across the globe. The goal of the collaboration is to uncover all genes that are responsible for ALS.
Since Project MinE received a $1 million grant from The ALS Association in the wake of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we were able to expand our operation significantly. Your support has made a profound impact!
What’s most exciting about this finding is that it gives scientists a promising new target for drug development.
And we are already making strides in this direction. NEK1 was previously shown to be involved in the maintenance of the cytoskeleton of the cell, which helps maintain cell shape. My lab is now working to see if NEK1 mutations could contribute to disease by damaging the cytoskeleton. Through funding from The Association and collaboration with The Jackson Laboratories, we are creating an NEK-1-associated disease model for further investigation.
Every gene adds up.
Collaboration is key in everything we do. All this work from gene discovery to understanding disease mechanism is bringing us leaps and bounds toward finding treatments and cures for ALS.
But we have a long way to go. Please continue to help fund promising research so we can find the cure for ALS as quickly as possible.