Nav: Home

New study indicates amino acid may be useful in treating ALS

February 20, 2020

(JACKSON, Wyo.- Feb. 20, 2020) - A naturally occurring amino acid is gaining increased attention from scientists as a possible treatment for ALS following a new study published today in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology. The study showed that the amino acid, L-serine, successfully reduced ALS-like changes in an animal model of ALS.

The scientists conducted the vervet study at the Behavioural Science Foundation, a specialized research facility on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. After being exposed to a cyanobacterial neurotoxin called BMAA, the vervets developed aggregations of misfolded proteins similar to those seen in human ALS patients, and activated microglia, a type of immune cells, in their spinal cord and brain, similar to those that occur in the early stages of ALS. In contrast, vervets that also received the amino acid L-serine had significantly reduced ALS pathology.

Dr. David Davis at the Department of Neurology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine who served as first author on the paper, said that the differences were profound. "Without L-serine co-administration, the BMAA-exposed vervets developed motor neuron degeneration, pro-inflammatory microglia and dense inclusions of TDP-43 and other misfolded proteins known to be associated with ALS," Dr. Davis explained. "In animals dosed with L-serine, the progression of these ALS-like changes was considerably reduced."

ALS is a devastating disease that hits people in the prime of life, causing increasing paralysis and often results in death within two to three years after diagnosis. At present, only two drugs are available that slow the disease modestly. This study offers the possibility that L-serine may slow the progression of the disease even more.

Potential Implications for L-Serine as a Treatment

Neurobiologist Dr. Deborah Mash of Nova Southeastern University, who was also an author on the study, said that the results "holds promise for identifying a cause of sporadic ALS, which accounts for 90 percent of all ALS cases."

Dr. Elijah Stommel, a Professor of Neurology at Dartmouth Medical School, who was not associated with the study, said that these experimental results are encouraging. Stommel is conducting a Phase II trial of L-serine in 50 ALS patients. "We are attempting to replicate a previous positive trial of L-serine for ALS patients, but won't know the results until the trial is finished," he said.

L-serine is one of the twenty amino acids that make up human proteins. L-serine molecules in proteins are often the site where proteins are phosphorylated, or charged, so they can be properly folded. "Think of a charging port for an electric car," explained Dr. Paul Alan Cox, Executive Director of the Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, "If the cable can't be connected there, the car can't be charged." Scientists at the Brain Chemistry Labs have also discovered that L-serine modulates the unfolded protein response which helps protect neurons from the damage produced by misfolded proteins.

"While these data provide valuable insights, we do not yet know if L-serine will improve outcomes for human patients with ALS," cautioned internationally renowned ALS expert, Dr. Walter Bradley, who was also an author on the study. "We need to carefully continue FDA-approved clinical trials before we can recommend that L-serine be added to the neurologists' toolbox for the treatment of ALS. However, this vervet BMAA model will be an important new tool in the quest for new drugs to treat ALS."

Dr. Larry Brand, a prominent oceanographer unassociated with the study, said that there are even broader implications of the study for human health. "These vervets were exposed to the same cyanobacterial toxin that was found in the brains of beached dolphins with Alzheimer's neuropathology," he said. "This is one more indication that we need to carefully monitor the health effects of exposure to cyanobacterial blooms."
-end-
About Brain Chemistry Labs

Brain Chemistry Labs is a non-profit research institute that offers a viable alternative to traditional pharmaceutical companies with its novel model for drug discovery. Established in 2006, Brain Chemistry Labs has moved along a path from discovery and pre-clinicals to advanced FDA-approved clinical trials for ALS and early-stage Alzheimer's disease. The Institute brings together more than 50 leading scientists from around the world representing various disciplines to perform key components of research. This collaboration is not only unique but is efficient and effective in rapidly advancing the research unencumbered by bureaucracy. Brain Chemistry Labs incorporates an innovative blend of novel discovery, exceptional human capital and a singular mission to change patient outcomes within the lifetimes of current patients. For more information about Brain Chemistry Labs, go to https://brainchemistrylabs.org/

Brain Chemistry Labs

Related Brain Articles:

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.
Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.
An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.
Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.
Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.
Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.
BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.
Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data
In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D.
Blue Brain Project releases first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas
The Blue Brain Cell Atlas is like ''going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth'' -- providing previously unavailable information on major cell types, numbers and positions in all 737 brain regions.
More Brain News and Brain Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.