Biomarkers for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common form of motor neuron disease. ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease and clinical diagnosis typically takes many months to complete. Early disease diagnosis through the use of biomarkers may aid in correct clinical management of patients and possibly delay time to ventilator and morbidity. This review explores the progress of biomarker discovery efforts for ALS and the many challenges that remain. Included are different technologies utilized in biomarker discovery efforts (proteomic, genomic and metabolomic) and putative biomarkers uncovered using these techniques. These studies have discovered genetic mutations leading to familial forms of ALS, and specific protein alterations that occur in biological fluids (cerebrospinal fluid and blood) and/or tissues of ALS subjects. More recent high-throughput technologies have revealed panels of proteomic or metabolic biomarkers that can discriminate between ALS and control groups. The identification of disease-specific biomarkers will provide opportunities to develop early diagnostic measures as well as surrogate markers to monitor disease progression and test drug efficacy in clinical trials.

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