Study: Blood Test Could Track ALS Progression

A new study shows that the earliest stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gherig’s disease might be detectable with a blood test. Currently, ALS progression can be tracked only through clinical measurements such as functional rating and measures of muscle strength.

Using a mouse model, researchers at Harvard Medical School, Tufts Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that a monocyte, or white blood cell, developed a specific chemical signature in the earliest stages of disease before symptoms. The signature triggered those cells to relocate to the spinal cord, where inflammation increased.

The scientists were able to target the signature using antibodies, which slowed disease progression. The findings suggest that the immune system might play a role in the beginning disease process of ALS.

Further studies are needed to validate the findings. However, this objective biomarker could lead to shorter trials and faster discovery of new therapies.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.