Can the key to slowing ALS progression be found in the immune cells of the brain?

Microglia are the primary immune cells of the brain and spinal cord. They patrol the central nervous system to track down and dispose of unwanted cellular debris and dead neurons, as well as organisms like bacteria and viruses that pose a threat of infection. When they detect invaders, they change their behaviour to summon the […]

Partnering with the ALS community on a new assessment tool

When someone has a disease, like ALS, their quality of life is affected in many different ways as the disease progresses. “Quality of life can mean many different things to different people. For some, it means functional abilities, like walking to the mailbox, but for others, it may mean leisure activities, or family and social […]

Can new understandings about RNA granules explain types of ALS?

Over the past several years, ALS researchers have learned that little structures in motor neurons called RNA granules are one of the most common biological differences in people with ALS and frontotemporal dementia compared to people without those diseases. These small ball-like granules are made of RNA, molecules that relay the genetic instructions in DNA, […]

Does a previously unstudied protein play an important role in ALS?

A protein called TDP-43 is usually found inside the cell nucleus where it plays an essential role in regulating many cellular processes. But in 97 per cent of people with ALS and nearly half of the people with frontotemporal dementia, TDP-43 is found outside the cell nucleus in an area called the cytoplasm. Understanding why […]

Can antibodies help diagnosis ALS faster?

Current methods for diagnosing ALS can take up to two years and rely heavily on ruling out other conditions that share similar signs and symptoms. It is believed that by the time ALS is diagnosed, therapies may be less effective as the damage to neurons is too extensive. Therefore, a better way of diagnosing ALS […]

Does a viral infection play a role in ALS onset and progression?

A group of viruses called enteroviruses usually cause mild illnesses with symptoms that may include fever, respiratory issues and flu-like muscle aches, similar to the common cold. However, some can cause more serious health problems, such as enterovirus D68 that can cause severe respiratory illness or the poliovirus that causes polio. Some researchers have long […]

Can Advanced Brain Imaging Diagnose ALS Earlier?

Current methods for diagnosing ALS involve ruling out other diseases that share similar symptoms. As a result, it can take a year or more from the onset of symptoms to confirm a diagnosis of ALS. That’s far too long — especially for a disease that on average claims lives within two to five years after […]

Could decreasing the over-excitability of motor neurons be a new way to treat ALS?

Within the brain and spinal cord, neurons pass electrical signals to each other through specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters. When this signalling network functions properly, there is a good balance between chemicals that excite the neurons and chemicals that inhibit them. Both excitation and inhibition are necessary for the brain to function normally and send signals […]

Do newly-discovered alternative proteins play a role in ALS?

Proteins are essential building blocks the body uses to make tissues such as muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Conventional science assumes that a section of DNA known as a gene provides instructions for a single protein, or “encodes” a single protein. A molecule called messenger RNA carries those instructions for the production of one specific […]

Cutting-edge technology allows University of Toronto researchers to tackle ALS in a new way.

Scientists have discovered variation within different areas of the brain and spinal cord of people living with ALS — some areas show greater degeneration while others are unaffected. With a $125,000 project grant from the ALS Canada Research Program in 2018, Dr. Janice Robertson and Dr. Paul McKeever, a postdoctoral fellow in her lab, will […]

Can a revolutionary gene-editing tool create better animal models for studying ALS?

Animal models enable scientists to study human diseases in lab settings. They help scientists learn about the biological changes that occur during disease onset and progression, and they can also speed the identification of promising therapies for testing in future clinical trials with human volunteers. In 2005, when he was still a graduate student, Dr. […]

How are two of the most common occurrences in ALS related?

Scientific discoveries are like puzzles. At first, two puzzle pieces may not appear to fit together, but then a new way of comparing them makes it possible to see how they connect, helping to fill in the picture. Mutations in the C9ORF72 gene are the most common genetic cause of ALS. Another abnormality that occurs […]

Can measuring “biological age” explain why ALS affects people differently?

ALS manifests very differently among people who develop the disease. It can occur anytime in adulthood. People usually only live two to five years after diagnosis, but it can range from six months to more than 20 years. Some people living with ALS, about 30 to 50 percent, experience cognitive or behavioural difficulties. Why does […]