Innate immunity in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative condition in which motor neurons are selectively targeted. Although the underlying cause remains unclear, evidence suggests a role for innate immunity in disease pathogenesis. Neuroinflammation in areas of motor neuron loss is evident in presymptomatic mouse models of ALS and in human patients. Efforts aimed at attenuating the inflammatory response in ALS animal models have delayed symptom onset and extended survival. Seemingly conversely, attempts to sensitize cells of the innate immune system and modulate their phenotype have also shown efficacy. Effectors of innate immunity in the CNS appear to have ambivalent potential to promote either repair or injury. Because ALS is a syndromic disease in which glutamate excitotoxicity, altered cytoskeletal protein metabolism, oxidative injury, mitochondrial dysfunction and neuroinflammation all contribute to motor neuron degeneration, targeting inflammation via modulation of microglial function therefore holds significant potential as one aspect of therapeutic intervention and could provide insight into the exclusive vulnerability of motor neurons.
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