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Concept: Stephen Hawking


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


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


Recent advances in understanding amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have delivered new questions. Disappointingly, the initial enthusiasm for transgenic mouse models of the disease has not been followed by rapid advances in therapy or prevention. Monogenic models may have inadvertently masked the true complexity of the human disease. ALS has evolved into a multisystem disorder, involving a final common pathway accessible via multiple upstream aetiological tributaries. Nonetheless, there is a common clinical core to ALS, as clear today as it was to Charcot and others. We stress the continuing relevance of clinical observations amid the increasing molecular complexity of ALS.

Concepts: Medicine, Molecular biology, Death, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig, Jean-Martin Charcot, Stephen Hawking


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by loss of upper and lower motor neurons. Although novel ALS genetic variants have been identified, the shared genetic risk between ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders remains poorly understood.

Concepts: Neurology, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegeneration, Neurodegenerative disorders, Frontotemporal dementia, Frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Stephen Hawking


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) exhibits characteristic variability of onset and rate of disease progression, with inherent clinical heterogeneity making disease quantitation difficult. Recent advances in understanding pathogenic mechanisms linked to the development of ALS impose an increasing need to develop strategies to predict and more objectively measure disease progression. This Review explores phenotypic and genetic determinants of disease progression in ALS, and examines established and evolving biomarkers that may contribute to robust measurement in longitudinal clinical studies. With targeted neuroprotective strategies on the horizon, developing efficiencies in clinical trial design may facilitate timely entry of novel treatments into the clinic. ANN NEUROL 2014. © 2014 American Neurological Association.

Concepts: Cohort study, Medicine, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig, Stephen Hawking


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disorder resulting from motor neuron death. Approximately 10% of cases are familial (FALS), typically with a dominant inheritance mode. Despite numerous advances in recent years, nearly 50% of FALS cases have unknown genetic aetiology. Here we show that mutations within the profilin 1 (PFN1) gene can cause FALS. PFN1 is crucial for the conversion of monomeric (G)-actin to filamentous (F)-actin. Exome sequencing of two large ALS families showed different mutations within the PFN1 gene. Further sequence analysis identified 4 mutations in 7 out of 274 FALS cases. Cells expressing PFN1 mutants contain ubiquitinated, insoluble aggregates that in many cases contain the ALS-associated protein TDP-43. PFN1 mutants also display decreased bound actin levels and can inhibit axon outgrowth. Furthermore, primary motor neurons expressing mutant PFN1 display smaller growth cones with a reduced F/G-actin ratio. These observations further document that cytoskeletal pathway alterations contribute to ALS pathogenesis.

Concepts: Protein, Spinal cord, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Axon, Lou Gehrig, Stephen Hawking


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurological condition with no cure. Mitochondrial dysfunction, Ca(2+) overloading and local hypoxic/ischemic environments have been implicated in the pathophysiology of ALS and are conditions that may initiate metabolic acidosis in the affected tissue. We tested the hypothesis that acidotoxicity and acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are involved in the pathophysiology of ALS. We found that motoneurons were selectively vulnerable to acidotoxicity in vitro, and that acidotoxicity was partially reduced in asic1a-deficient motoneuron cultures. Cross-breeding of SOD1(G93A) ALS mice with asic1a-deficient mice delayed the onset and progression of motor dysfunction in SOD1 mice. Interestingly, we also noted a strong increase in ASIC2 expression in motoneurons of SOD1 mice and sporadic ALS patients during disease progression. Pharmacological pan-inhibition of ASIC channels with the lipophilic amiloride derivative, 5-(N,N-dimethyl)-amiloride hydrochloride, potently protected cultured motoneurons against acidotoxicity, and, given post-symptom onset, significantly improved lifespan, motor performance and motoneuron survival in SOD1 mice. Together, our data provide strong evidence for the involvement of acidotoxicity and ASIC channels in motoneuron degeneration, and highlight the potential of ASIC inhibitors as a new treatment approach for ALS.Cell Death and Differentiation advance online publication, 11 January 2013; doi:10.1038/cdd.2012.158.

Concepts: Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig, Neuromuscular junction, Motor neuron, Motor neurone disease, SOD1, Stephen Hawking


The arylsulfanyl- and aryloxanylpyrazolone scaffolds previously were reported to inhibit Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 dependent protein aggregation and to extend survival in the ALS mouse model. However, further evaluation of these compounds indicated weak pharmacokinetic properties and a relatively low maximum tolerated dose. On the basis of an ADME analysis, a new series of compounds, the arylazanyl pyrazolones, has been synthesized, and structure-activity relationships were determined. The SAR results showed that the pyrazolone ring is critical to cellular protection. The NMR, IR, and computational analyses suggest that phenol-type tautomers of the pyrazolone ring are the active pharmacophore with the arylazanylpyrazolone analogues. A comparison of experimental and calculated IR spectra is shown to be a valuable method to identify the predominant tautomer.

Concepts: Antioxidant, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Mathematical analysis, Pharmacokinetics, Lou Gehrig, SOD1, Stephen Hawking


Black holes have been predicted to radiate particles and eventually evaporate, which has led to the information loss paradox and implies that the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics may be violated. Superstring theory, a consistent theory of quantum gravity, provides a possible solution to the paradox if evaporating black holes can actually be described in terms of standard quantum mechanical systems, as conjectured from the theory. Here, we test this conjecture by calculating the mass of a black hole in the corresponding quantum mechanical system numerically. Our results agree well with the prediction from gravity theory, including the leading quantum gravity correction. Our ability to simulate black holes offers the potential to further explore the yet mysterious nature of quantum gravity through well-established quantum mechanics.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Physics, General relativity, String theory, Theory of everything, Stephen Hawking, Quantum gravity, Hawking radiation


Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) provide communication that is independent of muscle control, and can be especially important for individuals with severe neuromuscular disease who cannot use standard communication pathways or other assistive technology. It has previously been shown that people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can successfully use BCI after all other means of independent communication have failed. The BCI literature has asserted that brainstem stroke survivors can also benefit from BCI use. This study used a P300-based event-related potential spelling system. This case study demonstrates that an individual locked-in owing to brainstem stroke was able to use a noninvasive BCI to communicate volitional messages. Over a period of 13 months, the participant was able to successfully operate the system during 40 of 62 recording sessions. He was able to accurately spell words provided by the experimenter and to initiate dialogues with his family. The results broadly suggest that, regardless of the precipitating event, BCI use may be of benefit to those with locked-in syndrome.

Concepts: Muscle, Neuroscience, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig, Atrophy, Neuromuscular disease, Message, Stephen Hawking