There has been significant headway in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as the Lou Gehrig's disease.
ALS is associated with the death of motor nerve cells, or neurons, affecting around three to five in one lakh population above 50 years of age each year in India and causing around 1.5 lakh deaths annually as per estimates.
Amit Dubey, a former researcher of the Allahabad University, along with researchers from Shoolini University of Himachal Pradesh and Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan, has done the research.
At present, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt or reverse the progression of the disease.
The results of the research have been published in the prestigious "New Journal of Chemistry", Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), UK.
However, improving prospects of identifying new treatment options for motor neurone disease, referred to as ALS, new research by this team of researchers has found evidence that "self-therapeutic gold nano-chaperon treatment" holds potential role in restoration of motor neuron processivity.
The researchers have identified the pharmacological potential of a synthesised Gold-PEG (PolyEthylene Glycol -- a compound derived from petroleum with many applications -- nanoconjugate in transgenic mice and the mechanism through which it could help in the treatment of the disease.
"ALS is a rare and debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that affects the voluntary movement of the muscles and can even lead to paralysis or death. ALS happens due to certain changes that could be triggered by environmental factors like smoking and exposure to toxins, metals or pesticides. Right now, there is no cure for the disease. The only options available for patients are two drugs that help manage the disease," said Dubey, an AU alumnus and a key member of the research team.
"We have reported the restoration of motor neuron processivity upon gold nano-chaperon treatment in vitro. We evaluated the pharmacological potential of a synthesised Gold-PEG nanoconjugate in transgenic mice. We found differences in the detection of the onset of symptoms and the progression of the disease upon Gold-PEG treatment when assessed using behavioural tests, such as rotarod and walking tests," he added.
Dubey said histopathology of gastrocnemius muscle (large posterior muscle of the calf of the leg) showed notable alteration upon Gold-PEG administration.
"The therapeutic potential of the nanoconjugate was found to be notable, with additional survival for mice, and improved rotarod (rotating rod with forced motor activity being applied) performance," he said.
Current findings suggest that gold nanoparticles can increase the survival of ALS suffering mice for nearly seven days on average compared to a control. Also, significant improvements were seen in the probability of onset and the mean age at onset as determined via rotarod testing and other examinations.
Gold-PEG-treated ALS mice also showed a lower extent of motor neuron degeneration, he added.