Promising results in the battle against incurable ALS muscle disease

ALS is an incurable, paralyzing neurodegenerative disorder that strikes 5 persons in every 100,000. The disease commonly affects healthy people in the most active period of their lives - without warning or previous family history. Researchers from VIB (the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology), under the direction of Prof. Peter Carmeliet (Catholic University of Leuven), have previously shown the importance of the VEGF protein in this disease. Now, new research from this group shows that rats with a severe form of ALS live longer following the administration of the VEGF protein as a remedy. These results open up new possibilities for the use of VEGF in the treatment of ALS.

An incurable disease of the muscles

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) can strike anyone. The Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, Russian composer Dimitri Sjostakowitz, the legendary New York Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig, and astro-physicist Stephen Hawkins have all been afflicted with ALS. In addition, an unusually large number of Italian professional soccer players, airline pilots, and soldiers from the Golf War have been stricken by this fatal disease. About half of them have died within three years - some even in the first year - and usually as a consequence of asphyxiation, while still 'in full possession of their faculties'.

In ALS, the patient's nerve bundles that extend to the muscles deteriorate. This causes the patient to lose control over his/her muscles, growing progressively paralyzed - but remaining (disconcertingly) fully alert mentally. The originating mechanism of this deadly disease of deterioration - which has an enormous medico-social impact - remains obscure. At present, the disease is totally untreatable - causing many ALS patients to choose euthanasia, a very controversial solution. However, previous genetic research by Peter Carmeliet and his team at the Catholic University of Leuven has led to the surprising discovery tha

Contact: Sooike Stoops
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology

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