New Technique Generates ALS-Derived Muscle for Study

March 25, 2014

Scientists have developed a new method for generating muscle cells from skin tissue of people with ALS. The study, which will be valuable for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

The research team was led by Masatoshi Suzuki, Ph.D., D.V.M., of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and included Allison Ebert, Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin. Their work was supported by the Wisconsin Chapter of The ALS Association.

Researchers demonstrated that muscle progenitor cells could be efficiently produced from stem cells in cell culture, using a new combination of growth factors. The method works with either human embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), which are derived from skin cells. In the study, the researchers transformed iPS cells from two different people with familial forms of ALS, one caused by mutations in the SOD1 gene and the other by mutations in the VAPB gene.

“The ability to generate muscle cells from ALS-related tissue is important, because we need to understand more about the role of muscle in the disease process,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., MBA, Chief Scientist for The Association. “We know an early step in ALS is loss of contact between muscle and motor neuron. This system should allow us to determine more about that important step and determine whether, if we can delay it, we can prolong both neuron health and muscle function.”

Read the press release.

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