Closing in on Lou Gehrig's disease genes

Feb. 20, 2007 at 7:00 PM
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BALTIMORE, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Johns Hopkins researchers said Tuesday they have narrowed the search for the cause of devastating Lou Gehrig's disease to 34 suspect genes.

Once the genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- the incurable disease that killed the New York Yankee legendary first baseman -- can be isolated, scientists believe they will be able to find a way to conquer the illness that claims 10,000 Americans a year.

"Although we haven't located the exact gene responsible for sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, our results seriously narrow the search and bring us that much closer to finding what we need to start developing treatments for the disease," says Bryan Traynor, a staff neurologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Traynor identified the 34 single nucleotide polymorphisms from 276 unrelated patients with the non-inherited form of the disease. About 5 percent of people who have Lou Gehrig's disease contract the inherited form. Genes responsible for inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were identified in the 1990s.

In the first genome-wide search for the genetic roots of the most common form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Johns Hopkins scientists have newly identified 34 unique variations in the human genetic code among 276 unrelated patients.

In the Johns Hopkins study, described in the online version of Lancet Neurology this month, Traynor and his team scanned the entire genome of 276 adult male and female subjects with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and 271 adult male and female subjects with no history of neurological disease.

The researchers found 34 genetic variants that patients were more likely to have compared to normal individuals without the disease.

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