Spirulina supplement seems to help ALS mice
A study of 15 mice with a genetic mutation that causes an ALS-like disease suggests that the nutritional supplement spirulina may have some protective effects on motor neurons, the main cells that degenerate in ALS.
The eight mice that received a powdered supplement of spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, in addition to their regular food, maintained their weight and a limb extension reflex in the right hind leg (but not the left) better than the seven mice on the regular diet alone.
Caveats are that the number of mice was small; the investigators started the spirulina supplement long before ALS-like symptoms began (a highly unlikely treatment approach in humans); surviving motor neuron numbers were not compared in the two diet groups; and the effect of spirulina on life span was not determined.
See Short Communication: Neuroprotective effect of spirulina in a mouse model of ALS to read the full paper for free.
Biogen Idec plans to develop antibodies to TDP43 protein
Biogen Idec, a Weston, Mass.-based biotechnology company, announced Dec. 20, 2010, that it has purchased the rights from the Swiss company Neurimmune to develop therapies for ALS and two other neurodegenerative diseases (see Biogen Idec and Neurimmune Announce Agreement on Three Neurodegenerative Disease Programs).
Neurimmune specializes in the identification of human immune-system proteins (antibodies) that can be put into a drug-discovery pipeline. Antibodies can often stop the actions of other proteins to which they're targeted. The Neurimmune ALS program has focused on development of antibodies to the TDP43 protein, which appears to have toxic properties in this disease (see ALS-Causing TDP43 Overstays Its Welcome and Expanded Ataxin 2 Genes a Major Contributor to ALS Risk).