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Proteins mark ALS

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11:24am, April 28, 2004

From Washington, D.C., at the Experimental Biology 2004 meeting

Today, physicians diagnose people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—better known as Lou Gehrig's disease—by process of elimination. In a series of exams that can last a year, a doctor must rule out other neurological diseases with similar symptoms, such as muscle weakness or slurred speech. A University of Pittsburgh pathologist now reports finding a perturbed pattern of proteins—some elevated, others abnormally low—in the cerebrospinal fluid of ALS patients.

Computer analysis of these proteins permits diagnosis of ALS in a day, with 86 percent accuracy, says Robert Bowser.

Bowser says that this diagnostic pattern of up to 10 proteins "changes as the disease progresses." Periodically checking the pattern during trials of new drugs might provide the first quantitative way to gauge how experimental therapies affect progression of the disease.

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