Exercise Plus Gene Therapy Could Slow ALS

Mouse study shows promise for the fatal neurological disorder, also called Lou Gehrig's disease

MONDAY, Nov. 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of exercise and gene therapy may help extend the lives of people with the degenerative neurological illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, research in mice suggests.

As reported Monday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., one group of mice was treated with a combination of exercise and therapy with a gene known to help protect motor neurons. The other group of mice received no treatment.

The combined exercise and gene therapy nearly doubled the lifespan of mice with ALS. They lived for an average of 210 days, compared to an average of 120 days for the mice that received no treatment. The normal lifespan of a mouse is one to two years.

"Somehow, the two treatments complement each other and benefit the mouse," study lead author Brian Kaspar, assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University, said in a prepared statement.

Kaspar and his team also found that the earlier in life that mice with ALS began to exercise, the longer they lived.

Previous research into other neuronal diseases, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's, suggested that exercise may help prevent neuron death.

"Understanding how exercise affects gene expression may help us find new therapies that slow down the progression of ALS," Kaspar said.

More information

The Muscular Dystrophy Association has more about ALS.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Nov. 14, 2005
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