A new set of studies led by Dr. Hemali Phatanani in Dr. Tom Maniatis’ laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center, New York in collaboration with the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama and published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. provide the field with a better understanding of the dynamic and complex relationship between motor neurons and astrocytes in ALS. In normal healthy individuals, astrocytes secrete factors to support motor neurons. However, in ALS this supporting role "is profoundly disrupted." The researchers involved in the study performed a series of co-culture experiments, combining both normal and diseased motor neurons and astrocytes. Afterwards, they separated the motor neurons from the astrocytes, and looked at the changes in gene expression in each cell type. The results of these RNA profiling experiments were surprising – many pathways that are associated with motor neuron degeneration were upregulated in healthy motor neurons co-cultured with sick astrocytes, suggesting that the diseased astrocytes contributed to the activation of these pathways. Read more about these interesting findings here.
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