Research ArticleALS

Targeting RNA Foci in iPSC-Derived Motor Neurons from ALS Patients with a C9ORF72 Repeat Expansion

Science Translational Medicine  23 Oct 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 208, pp. 208ra149
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007529

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Clearing Toxic RNA in ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a uniformly fatal disease caused by the death of cells in the nervous system that control the musculature. Patients slowly become paralyzed and lose the ability to breathe, and no effective therapies currently exist. The expansion of a repeated DNA element (GGGGCC) in a gene called C9ORF72 was recently identified as the most common genetic cause of ALS. In their new study, Sareen et al. set out to understand how the expansion of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 causes cell degeneration. They took skin cells from patients with the disease and converted them into motor neurons in a culture dish, the cells that die in ALS patients. They found that large pieces of RNA containing the expanded GGGGCC repeat built up in neurons from ALS patients and disrupted the function of these cells. Furthermore, they observed that oligonucleotides complementary to the C9ORF72 RNA transcript sequence (“antisense oligonucleotides”) suppressed the formation of these RNA foci. These findings support the idea that the buildup of “toxic” RNA containing the GGGGCC repeat contributes to the death of motor neurons in ALS, and suggest that antisense oligonucleotides targeting this transcript may be a strategy for treating ALS patients with the C9ORF72 repeat expansion.