Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have released the results of a study that focused on the effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) on different muscles throughout the body.
Their findings show that there is a difference between the effects seen in eye muscles in comparison to other muscles.
The research was directed specifically at proteins involved in the communication between muscles and nerves. Through their experimentation, the researchers have found that the proteins in the muscle-nerve contacts within the eye muscles are less affected by ALS than those in other parts of the body.
“While skeletal muscles are severely affected in ALS, eye muscles are far less affected than limb muscles. In our research, we have been looking at why,” says Vahid M. Harandi, doctoral student at the Department of Integrative Medical Biology and the Department of Clinical Sciences, Ophthalmology.
“What we found were intrinsic differences between limb and eye muscles regarding expression of certain signal proteins involved in the development and vitality of neurons. These differences, together with the fact that the neuromuscular junctions of eye muscles seem better able to preserve these signal proteins, known as neurotrophic factors, might play a role in the preservation of eye muscle function during ALS.
“ALS is considered to be a late-onset neurodegenerative disease, often causing progressive muscle wasting, speech and swallowing difficulties. The lifespan of those diagnosed with the disease is usually only 3-5 years from the time symptoms begin to show, with the cause of death often being respiratory failure.
The goal of Vahid M. Harandis’ research was to learn more about how ALS develops, specifically in regards to it’s effects on muscles. The hope is that with better understanding of how the disease affects the body, better methods of treatment can be developed that may help reverse those effects, or possibly prevent them entirely.