Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: recent genetic highlights

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), like other neurodegenerative diseases, remains incurable, but gene mutations linked to ALS are providing clues as to how to target therapies. It is important for researchers to keep abreast of the rapid influx of new data in ALS, and we aim to summarize the major genetic advances made in the field over the past 2 years.

Recent findings

Significant variation in seven genes has recently been found in ALS: TBK1, CCNF, GLE1, MATR3, TUBA4A, CHCHD10 and NEK1. These have mostly been identified through large exome screening studies, though traditional linkage approaches and candidate gene screening remain important. We briefly update C9orf72 research, noting in particular the development of reagents to better understand the normal role of C9orf72 protein.

Summary

Striking advances in our understanding of the genetic heterogeneity of ALS continue to be made, year on year. These implicate proteostasis, RNA export, nuclear transport, the cytoskeleton, mitochondrial function, the cell cycle and DNA repair. Functional studies to integrate these hits are needed. By building a web of knowledge with interlinked genes and mechanisms, it is hoped we can better understand ALS and work toward effective therapies.

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