Lateral amyotrophic sclerosis (LAS) is a progressive neurological disease that attacks the neurons in charge of controlling muscle movement. Despite the fact that there is no proven treatment for this disease, a study by the Universidad de Chile and Harvard University in the United States will allow the development of an unprecedentedly effective therapy to fight it.
The research, underway for over four years and earned a place on the cover and an editorial commentary in the prestigious scientific magazine Genes and Development in October 2009, showed in an experiment with mice that increasing the level of autophagy, or the body’s cellular ability to eat its own “garbage,” increases the LAS survival rate. It allowed some animals to live up to 20% longer and under better conditions.
“The first important conclusion is that stimulating autophagy with drugs would probably improve the conditions of patients with the disease,” affirmed Dr. Claudio Hetz, one of the study’s authors and an academic at the Universidad de Chile medical school’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences, who last year received the Prize for most outstanding Young Scientist that the Academia de Ciencias del TercerMundo awards every year.
The study, which has received excellent criticism and has aroused significant interest in the scientific world, presents other very interesting possibilities as well, as it would also work to fight other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Cancer.
The research by these universities is added to the project by the Universidad Austral de Chile, which intends to develop a prototype artificial skinto treat patients with diabetic foot and improve the quality of living for people who suffer from this disease.