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Study: Gene Serves As Indicator of ALS Progression in 80% of Patients

methodistAccording to researchers from the Houston, Texas-based Methodist Neurological Institute, the expression of the gene FoxP3 served as an indicator of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 80% of patients involved in a recent study. The researchers explain that low FoxP3 levels were likely in patients whose ALS would develop rapidly.

A news release reports that during the study, a research team including Jenny Henkel, PhD, assistant professor of neurology, study lead author, and Stanley Appel, MD, professor of neurology and chair, observed three patient groups. In the first group, researchers obtained blood samples from 54 ALS patients at different stages of the disease and from 33 healthy control volunteers. A second patient group, including 102 ALS patients and 28 healthy control volunteers, was observed specifically to assess the predictive power of FoxP3 expression in ALS disease development. The third group was reportedly composed of deceased individuals both with and without the disease. Researchers say the group was studied for the purpose of determining endpoints for T cell production and gene expression.

While the results suggest the expression of FoxP3, TGFβ, IL4, and Gata3 may serve as indicators for latter stages of the disease, Henkel says, “our research suggests only FoxP3 was a prognostic indicator early in the disease. After following a group of ALS patients for 3 ½ years, low FoxP3 levels predicted a rapidly progressing disease 80% of the time,” she notes.

Appel echoes Henkel’s words, adding that, “Our research verifies that inflammation is accelerating disease progression, that regulatory T cells and Th2 cells may slow disease progression, and that modifying regulatory T cells appears to be a viable treatment option.”

The release notes that researchers aim to pinpoint specific targets for modifying the inflammation that may facilitate disease progression.

Source: Methodist Neurological Institute