Investigating a Novel Pathology for ALS

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For years, research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — the progressive neurodegenerative disease — has focused on the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord, which was believed to be the driving mechanism in ALS pathology. The death of motor neurons in the brain’s cortex, called upper motor neurons, was understood to be secondary to spinal neuron degeneration, and less-frequently studied by ALS investigators.

In a new review published in Nature Reviews Neurology, however, Hande Ozdinler, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology, outlines how recent discoveries support a different understanding of the mechanisms underlying ALS: that the loss of upper motor neurons in the cortex is critical for disease pathology, and may be essential to developing better diagnostic tools and treatments for ALS.

The review was co-authored with scientists at the University of Sydney.

“This review shows that cortical dysfunction has now been proven to be a very early event in ALS — perhaps even before spinal motor neuron death,” Ozdinler said. “This is view-changing.”

Read the full article featuring Dr. Ozdinler’s findings, published by Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, here.