Disease-modifying therapies in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Neuropharmacology. 2020 May 1:167:107986. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2020.107986. Epub 2020 Feb 3.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder of adult life, causing weakness and wasting of voluntary muscles, associated in about 50% of cases with a cognitive impairment. Pathologically, the disease is characterized by a degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons. A hallmark of the pathological process is the aggregation of the protein TDP43 in the cytoplasm of affected neurons detected in almost 97% of cases. About 15% of cases has a family history. Currently, only two drugs have been demonstrated to be effective in ALS, riluzole and edaravone, which show only modest effects on disease progression. The quest for disease-modifying therapies in ALS has several obstacles, the most important being the sub-optimal quality of the design of clinical trials, and the clinical and pathological heterogeneity of the disease. In this paper the pathological mechanisms relevant to ALS and current and future pharmacological and non-pharmacological trials, including gene and stem cells therapies, will be presented. This article is part of the special issue entitled 'The Quest for Disease-Modifying Therapies for Neurodegenerative Disorders'.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Clinical trials; Drugs; Pathogenic mechanisms; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / immunology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Nitriles
  • Pyridones / pharmacology
  • Pyridones / therapeutic use
  • Riluzole / pharmacology
  • Riluzole / therapeutic use
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / trends


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Nitriles
  • Pyridones
  • Riluzole
  • perampanel