London: Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes have used baker’s yeast — a tiny, one-celled organism — to identify an unexpected potential drug target for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.ALS is a devastatingly cruel neurodegenerative disorder that robs sufferers of the ability to move, speak and, finally, breathe.In 2008, Aaron Gitler, PhD, an associate professor of genetics at Stanford, received a New Innovator award from the National Institutes of Health to use yeast as a model for understanding human neurodegenerative diseases and as a way to identify new targets for drug development.Gitler is the co-senior author of the research. Robert Farese, Jr., MD, a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes, is the other co-senior author. Stanford graduate student Maria Armakola shares co-first authorship with Matthew Higgins, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at Gladstone.Most cases of ALS have no clear-cut cause. However, it has recently been shown that an RNA-binding protein called TDP-43 accumulates in clumps in the cytoplasm of spinal cord neurons in many people with the condition, and mutations in this protein have been found in some people with the ALS.
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