ALS Association-Supported Study Shows Combining Two Growth Factors May Have Advantage in ALS Treatment

May 31, 2013

A study published in the scientific journal Molecular Therapy, which was supported by the Wisconsin Chapter of The ALS Association and led by University of Wisconsin at Madison researchers, shows in ALS that two growth factors may be better than one.

Growth factors are proteins produced by one set of cells in the body that help promote the health of other cells. Previous work has shown that both VEGF (vascular endothelial-derived growth factor) and GDNF (glial-derived neurotrophic factor) can promote the survival of motor neurons in models of ALS. Motor neurons are the cells that die in ALS and lead to paralysis.

“This study provides support for the idea that delivering growth factors to muscle may be beneficial in ALS,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for The ALS Association. “Further work will be needed to explore this option, but it has the advantage of being less invasive than delivering the same growth factors to the spinal cord.”

Masatoshi Suzuki, Ph.D., and colleagues tested whether the two growth factors together could provide more benefit than either alone. These researchers engineered stem cells to produce both growth factors and then injected these cells into the muscles in a rat model of ALS. The combined treatment increased lifespan and improved features of the motor neurons at the point where they contact muscle.

This study is available online.

Read the press release.

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