Two Genes May One Day Help People with ALS Breathe Better

There are specialized motor neurons in the spinal cord that control breathing. These neurons control and regulate the expansion and contraction of the lungs through connections they have made with the diaphragm. However, how these motor neurons form connections with the diaphragm was previously unknown. Now, in an article published in December’s issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center have discovered two genes, Hoxa5 and Hoxc5, which regulate the formation of these connections. The researchers found that if these two genes are turned off during development, the motor neurons fail to form connections with the diaphragm, which prevents breathing.

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