In the brain and spinal cord, transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) mediates the detrimental effects of astrocytes on motor neuron survival in ALS (see April 2015 news). Now, the TGFβ superfamily of cytokines is resurfacing in ALS muscle. As reported in the Sep 16 PLoS One, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggest that proteins from the TGF-β superfamily of cytokines are potential muscle biomarkers for ALS. Peter King and colleagues detected elevated levels of the TGF-β1, 2, and 3 isoforms in muscle biopsies from ALS patients, as well as in muscle samples from both presymptomatic and symptomatic G93A-SOD1 ALS mice. In the mice, expression of the TGF-β downstream signaling mediators, Smad2 and Smad3, also exhibited higher expression as disease symptoms progressed. Follow-up studies to characterize thetemporal profile of TGF-β isoform expression in human muscle could provide additional support for these proteins as muscle biomarkers of ALS disease progression.
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