There is an intensive search for diagnostic markers in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Protein analysis (proteomics) of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) appears particularly promising using mass spectrometry and 2-D gel electrophoresis to detect low and high molecular weight proteins, respectively. It is open whether protein changes specific for ALS will be found. This also holds true for inflammatory proteins such as the cytokine monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 which has been detected in CSF in ALS and for other cytokines such as interleukin-1β. Increases of the protein Nogo A and B in muscle tissue and decreases of the growth factor vascular endothelial growth factor in blood may also be useful for monitoring the course of ALS. Clinical neurophysiology provides markers for upper and lower motor neuron damage. A very sensitive method to detect early upper motor neuron involvement is the transcranial magnetic stimulation modification 'triple stimulation technique' which can show significant changes in patients without clinical upper motor neuron signs. The loss of lower motor neurons can be closely monitored by MUNE techniques (motor unit number estimate). In modern imaging, the MRI technique DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) has the greatest diagnostic potential for ALS. It can separate between normal and ALS in group comparisons and may be improved to be diagnostic in individual patients. Voxel-based morphometry can reliably demonstrate regional cortical atrophy in motor areas and beyond although it is not appropriate for use in individual patients.
Research Areas and Centers
- Centers: Center for Neuromuscular Diseases