Injections of a protein found in the cells of humans prolong the life of laboratory mice by delaying the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), US researchers said in a study published Tuesday.
The treatment with the Hsp70 protein prolonged the life of diseased mice by 10 percent and delayed the onset of ALS longer than Riluzole, the only US Food and Drug Administration approved treatment for the incurable degenerative neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Wake Forest University researchers in North Carolina said Hsp70 could lead to new approaches in the treatment of ALS, but said that it has yet to be approved for clinical trials with humans.
Lead researcher David Gifondorwa said the discovery added one more piece of the puzzle behind the causes of ALS and that it could one day be part of a cocktail of remedies to deal with this fatal disease.
In the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers used genetically modified laboratory mice to carry the faulty gene that causes 2.0-3.0 percent of ALS cases in humans.
The animals were divided into three groups and treated respectively with a placebo, Riluzole and Hsp70.
The Hsp70 protein was extracted by thermal shock, a process by which cells eject a substance to protect themselves from a sudden increase of temperature.