Future therapeutical strategies dictated by pre-clinical evidence in ALS

Francesco Fornai, Vincent Meininger, Vincent Silani


Classic concepts on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis led to define  the disease as a selective degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons. At present such selectivity is questioned by novel findings. For instance, the occurrence of  frontotemporal dementia is now increasingly recognized in the course of ALS. Again, areas outside the central nervous system are targeted in ALS. In keeping with motor areas other cell types surrounding motor neurons such as  glia and interneurons are key in the pathogenesis of ALS. This multiple cell involvement may be due to a prion-like diffusion of specific misfolded proteins which are altered in ALS. This is the case of FUS and TDP-43 which harbor a prion domain prone to pathological misfolding. These misfolded proteins are metabolized by the autophagy, but in ALS there is evidence for a specific deficit of autophagy which impedes the clearance of these proteins. These concepts lead to re-analyze the potential therapeutics of ALS. In fact, mere cell substitution (stem cell) therapy appears insufficient to contrast all the alterations in the various pathways affected by ALS. Although preclinical data speed the application of stem cells in human clinical trials, several hurdles limit their translation into new therapies. Future treatments are expected to consider the need to target both motor neurons and neighboring cells which may contribute to the diffusion and persistence of the disease. On this basis the present manuscript describes which future strategies need to be pursued in order to design optimal therapeutic trial in ALS.


frontotemporal dementia; autophagy; protein clearing system; prion-like proteins.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4449/aib.v149i1.1269


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