Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most frequently occurring of the neuromuscular degenerative disorders, with a median survival time of 3-5 years. The pathophysiological mechanisms underlying ALS are multifactorial, with a complex interaction between genetic factors and molecular pathways. To date 16 genes and loci have been associated with ALS, with mutations in DNA/RNA-regulating genes including the recently described c9orf72 (chromosome 9 open reading frame 72) gene, suggesting an important role for dysregulation of RNA metabolism in ALS pathogenesis. Further, dysfunction of molecular pathways, including glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity, has been identified in sporadic and familial ALS, indicating the existence of a common pathogenic pathway. These pathophysiological insights have suggested novel therapeutic approaches, including stem cell and genetics-based strategies, providing hope for feasible treatment of ALS.
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