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Concept: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


Despite partial success, communication has remained impossible for persons suffering from complete motor paralysis but intact cognitive and emotional processing, a state called complete locked-in state (CLIS). Based on a motor learning theoretical context and on the failure of neuroelectric brain-computer interface (BCI) communication attempts in CLIS, we here report BCI communication using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and an implicit attentional processing procedure. Four patients suffering from advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-two of them in permanent CLIS and two entering the CLIS without reliable means of communication-learned to answer personal questions with known answers and open questions all requiring a “yes” or “no” thought using frontocentral oxygenation changes measured with fNIRS. Three patients completed more than 46 sessions spread over several weeks, and one patient (patient W) completed 20 sessions. Online fNIRS classification of personal questions with known answers and open questions using linear support vector machine (SVM) resulted in an above-chance-level correct response rate over 70%. Electroencephalographic oscillations and electrooculographic signals did not exceed the chance-level threshold for correct communication despite occasional differences between the physiological signals representing a “yes” or “no” response. However, electroencephalogram (EEG) changes in the theta-frequency band correlated with inferior communication performance, probably because of decreased vigilance and attention. If replicated with ALS patients in CLIS, these positive results could indicate the first step towards abolition of complete locked-in states, at least for ALS.

Concepts: Neuroscience, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Electroencephalography, Evoked potential, Electromyography, Answer, Support vector machine, Neurofeedback


Elevated expression of specific transposable elements (TEs) has been observed in several neurodegenerative disorders. TEs also can be active during normal neurogenesis. By mining a series of deep sequencing datasets of protein-RNA interactions and of gene expression profiles, we uncovered extensive binding of TE transcripts to TDP-43, an RNA-binding protein central to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Second, we find that association between TDP-43 and many of its TE targets is reduced in FTLD patients. Third, we discovered that a large fraction of the TEs to which TDP-43 binds become de-repressed in mouse TDP-43 disease models. We propose the hypothesis that TE mis-regulation contributes to TDP-43 related neurodegenerative diseases.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Molecular biology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Frontotemporal dementia, Frontotemporal lobar degeneration


Glial proliferation and activation are associated with disease progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar dementia. In this study, we describe a unique platform to address the question of cell autonomy in transactive response DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) proteinopathies. We generated functional astroglia from human induced pluripotent stem cells carrying an ALS-causing TDP-43 mutation and show that mutant astrocytes exhibit increased levels of TDP-43, subcellular mislocalization of TDP-43, and decreased cell survival. We then performed coculture experiments to evaluate the effects of M337V astrocytes on the survival of wild-type and M337V TDP-43 motor neurons, showing that mutant TDP-43 astrocytes do not adversely affect survival of cocultured neurons. These observations reveal a significant and previously unrecognized glial cell-autonomous pathological phenotype associated with a pathogenic mutation in TDP-43 and show that TDP-43 proteinopathies do not display an astrocyte non-cell-autonomous component in cell culture, as previously described for SOD1 ALS. This study highlights the utility of induced pluripotent stem cell-based in vitro disease models to investigate mechanisms of disease in ALS and other TDP-43 proteinopathies.

Concepts: DNA, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal and progressive neurodegenerative disease. Despite much research having been conducted about psychological issues involved in living with ALS, anger, and resentment have yet to be investigated. Moreover, the construct of “hope” has received little attention, so far. An online survey was created to investigate hate, resentment, and hope issues in people with ALS, in relation to the willingness to adopt a strict nutrient-dense diet if it were shown to increase longevity. Results indicate that there is a high level of hope in the sample. People who have lived with ALS for more time expressed a higher level of hope to live 10 years or more. Those who are married were more likely to have hope of living 10 years or longer and more likely to have lower levels of hate against ALS. Dietary self-care choices appear to be related to hope issues. Resentment and hate tended to be higher in people who have had ALS for less time, and in women. Despite some methodological limitations, the results suggest that hope, hate, and resentment could be important issues to explore in future studies.

Concepts: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Lou Gehrig, Calorie restriction


To assess the safety, tolerability, and preliminary efficacy of NP001, a novel immune regulator of inflammatory monocytes/macrophages, for slowing progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Concepts: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig


BACKGROUND: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, caused by progressive loss of motor neurons. Changes are widespread in the subcortical white matter in ALS. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) detects pathological changes in white matter fibres in vivo, based on alterations in the degree (diffusivity, ADC) and directedness (fractional anisotropy, FA) of proton movement. METHODS: 24 patients with ALS and 24 age-matched controls received 1.5T DTI.FA and ADC were analyzed using statistical parametric mapping. In 15 of the 24 ALS patients, a second DTI was obtained after 6 months. RESULTS: Decreased FA in the corticospinal tract (CST) and frontal areas confirm existing results. With a direct comparison of baseline and follow-up dataset, the progression of upper motor neuron degeneration, reflected in FA decrease, could be captured along the CST and in frontal areas. The involvement of cerebellum in the pathology of ALS, as suspected from functional MRI studies, could be confirmed by a reduced FA (culmen, declive). These structural changes correlated well with disease duration, ALSFRS-R, and physical and executive functions. CONCLUSION: DTI detects changes that are regarded as prominent features of ALS and thus, shows promise in its function as a biomarker. Using the technique herein, we could demonstrate DTI changes at follow-up which correlated well with clinical progression.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Neuroimaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Cerebellum, Motor neuron, Stephen Hawking


Mutations in SOD1 cause hereditary variants of the fatal motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Pathophysiology of the disease is non-cell-autonomous, with toxicity deriving also from glia. In particular, microglia contribute to disease progression. Methylene blue (MB) inhibits the effect of nitric oxide, which mediates microglial responses to injury. In vivo 2P-LSM imaging was performed in ALS-linked transgenic SOD1(G93A) mice to investigate the effect of MB on microglia-mediated inflammation in the spinal cord. Local superfusion of the lateral spinal cord with MB inhibited the microglial reaction directed at a laser-induced axon transection in control and SOD1(G93A) mice. In vitro, MB at high concentrations inhibited cytokine and chemokine release from microglia of control and advanced clinical SOD1(G93A) mice. Systemic MB-treatment of SOD1(G93A) mice at early preclinical stages significantly delayed disease onset and motor dysfunction. However, an increase of MB dose had no additional effect on disease progression; this was unexpected in view of the local anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, in vivo imaging of systemically MB-treated mice also showed no alterations of microglia activity in response to local lesions. Thus although systemic MB treatment had no effect on microgliosis, instead, its use revealed an important influence on motor neuron survival as indicated by an increased number of lumbar anterior horn neurons present at the time of disease onset. Thus, potentially beneficial effects of locally applied MB on inflammatory events contributing to disease progression could not be reproduced in SOD1(G93A) mice via systemic administration, whereas systemic MB application delayed disease onset via neuroprotection.

Concepts: Inflammation, Nervous system, Neuron, Spinal cord, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Anti-inflammatory, Glial cell, Motor neuron


BACKGROUND: A proline-to-serine substitution at position-56 (P56S) of vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B (VAPB) causes a form of dominantly inherited motor neuron disease (MND), including typical and atypical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a mild late-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). VAPB is an integral endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein and has been implicated in various cellular processes, including ER stress, the unfolded protein response (UPR) and Ca2+ homeostasis. However, it is unclear how the P56S mutation leads to neurodegeneration and muscle atrophy in patients. The formation of abnormal VAPB-positive inclusions by mutant VAPB suggests a possible toxic gain of function as an underlying mechanism. Furthermore, the amount of VAPB protein is reported to be reduced in sporadic ALS patients and mutant SOD1G93A mice, leading to the hypothesis that wild type VAPB plays a role in the pathogenesis of ALS without VAPB mutations. RESULTS: To investigate the pathogenic mechanism in vivo, we generated human wild type (wtVAPB) and mutant VAPB (muVAPB) transgenic mice that expressed the transgenes broadly in the CNS. We observed robust VAPB-positive aggregates in the spinal cord of muVAPB transgenic mice. However, we failed to find an impairment of motor function and motor neuron degeneration. We also did not detect any change in the endogenous VAPB level or evidence for induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and coaggregation of VAPA with muVAPB. Furthermore, we crossed these VAPB transgenic mice with mice that express mutant SOD1G93A and develop motor neuron degeneration. Overexpression of neither wtVAPB nor muVAPB modulated the protein aggregation and disease progression in the SOD1G93A mice. CONCLUSION: Overexpression of VAPBP56S mutant to approximately two-fold of the endogenous VAPB in mouse spinal cord produced abundant VAPB aggregates but was not sufficient to cause motor dysfunction or motor neuron degeneration. Furthermore, overexpression of either muVAPB or wtVAPB does not modulate the course of ALS in SOD1G93A mice. These results suggest that changes in wild type VAPB do not play a significant role in ALS cases that are not caused by VAPB mutations. Furthermore, these results suggest that muVAPB aggregates are innocuous and do not cause motor neuron degeneration by a gain-of-toxicity, and therefore, a loss of function may be the underlying mechanism.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Mutation, Muscle, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Atrophy, Motor neuron, Motor neurone disease, Motor neuron disease


Aggregation of TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is a pathological signature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Although accumulating evidence suggests the involvement of RNA recognition motifs (RRMs) in TDP-43 proteinopathy, it remains unclear how native TDP-43 is converted to pathogenic forms. To elucidate the role of homeostasis of RRM1 structure in ALS pathogenesis, conformations of RRM1 under high pressure were monitored by NMR. We first found that RRM1 was prone to aggregation and had three regions showing stable chemical shifts during misfolding. Moreover, mass-spectrometric analysis of aggregated RRM1 revealed that one of the regions was located on protease-resistant β-strands containing two cysteines (C173 and C175), indicating that this region served as a core assembly interface in RRM1 aggregation. Although a fraction of RRM1 aggregates comprised disulfide-bonded oligomers, the substitution of cysteine(s) to serine(s) (C/S) resulted in unexpected acceleration of amyloid fibrils of RRM1 and disulfide-independent aggregate formation of full-length TDP-43. Notably, TDP-43 aggregates with RRM1-C/S required C-terminus, and replicated cytopathologies of ALS, including mislocalization, impaired RNA splicing, ubiquitination, phosphorylation, and motor neuron toxicity. Furthermore, RRM1-C/S accentuated inclusions of familial ALS-linked TDP-43 mutants in C-terminus. The relevance of RRM1-C/S-induced TDP-43 aggregates in ALS pathogenesis was verified by immunolabeling of inclusions of ALS patients and cultured cells overexpressing the RRM1-C/S TDP-43 with antibody targeting a misfolding-relevant regions. Our results indicate that cysteines in RRM1 crucially govern the conformation of TDP-43, and aberrant self-assembly of RRM1 at amyloidogenic regions contributes to pathogenic conversion of TDP-43 in ALS.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Amyloid, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Aggregate, Aggregate data, RNA splicing, Proteopathy


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease with a poor prognosis. Survival and quality of life of ALS patients have improved through the implementation of multidisciplinary approaches, the use of percutaneous gastrostomy and of noninvasive (NIV) or invasive ventilation. The question of whether or not to propose invasive ventilation (by tracheostomy: TPPV) to ALS patients remains a matter of debate.

Concepts: Medical terms, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Lou Gehrig, Stephen Hawking