Als and Ftd: Insights into the disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) are neurodegenerative disorders, related by signs of deteriorating motor and cognitive functions, and short survival. The causes are still largely unknown and no effective treatment currently exists. It has been shown that FTLD may coexist with ALS. The overlap between ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the clinical syndrome associated with FTLD, occurs at clinical, genetic, and pathological levels. The hallmark proteins of the pathognomonic inclusions are SOD-1, TDP-43 or FUS, rarely the disease is caused by mutations in the respective genes. Frontotemporal lobar degenerations (FTLD) is genetically, neuropathologically and clinically heterogeneous and may present with behavioural, language and occasionally motor disorder, respectively. Almost all cases of ALS, as well as tau-negative FTLD share a common neuropathology, neuronal and glial inclusion bodies containing abnormal TDP-43 protein, collectively called TDP-43 proteinopathy. Recent discoveries in genetics (e.g. C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansion) and the subsequent neuropathological characterization have revealed remarkable overlap between ALS and FTLD-TDP indicating common pathways in pathogenesis. For ALS, an anti-glutamate agent riluzole may be offered to slow disease progression (Level A), and a promising molecule, arimoclomol, is currently in clinical trials. Other compounds, however, are being trailed and some have shown encouraging results. As new therapeutic approaches continue to emerge by targeting SOD1, TDP-43, or GRN, we present some advances that are being made in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of these diseases, which together with gene and stem cell therapies may translate into new treatment options.

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