Decline in Daily Running Distance Presages Disease Onset in a Mouse Model of ALS

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by progressive degeneration of lower motor neurons resulting in paralysis and death. Epidemiological and clinical findings suggest that a decline in athletic performance may presage the clinical onset of ALS, but this possibility has not been tested in an animal model. By placing running wheels in each mouse's cage to measure their exercise activity, we show that presymptomatic G93A SOD1 ALS mice are more active runners (15–20 km/day) than control mice (7–9 km/day). The ALS mice then exhibit a sharp decline in daily running distance 10–20 days prior to the onset of clinical disease. Within the group of ALS mice, there were no significant correlations between cumulative lifetime running distance and age at clinical disease onset or age at death, suggesting that amount of exercise did not affect the course of the disease process. Our data show that presymptomatic ALS mice have a propensity for running long distances, and then dramatically reduce the amount they run prior to the appearance of clinical symptoms. The monitoring of voluntary running distance may provide a valuable biomarker to evaluate the efficacy of potential therapeutic interventions for ALS in preclinical studies.

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