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  • Writer's pictureALS Double Play

Journey into the Brain: Genetic Discoveries in ALS

A team of ALS researchers in the lab led by Dr. Janice Robertson lab at the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (Tanz CRND) recently released information on their cutting-edge project. The study was led by Dr. Paul McKeever, who is the current Christopher Chiu Fellow for ALS research and focused on creating a detailed map of genetic information within the cells of the frontal cortex of the brain, a region known to be impacted by ALS.


In their exploration, the researchers found distinct patterns in how genes operate and how accessible they are in certain brain cells affected by ALS. This showed us that each type of ALS has its own set of characteristics. Additionally, the team observed that essential pathways and genes related to nerve cells and the immune system were not functioning properly in both types of ALS, shedding light on the impact of the disease on these systems.


A standout discovery was the difference in elements controlling genes in the brain cells of people with ALS compared to those without ALS. These differences could play a crucial role in the development of ALS by influencing important genes and pathways in the cells.


To unravel the complexities of ALS, Dr. McKeever, co-author Aiden Sababi, and the team developed a state-of-the-art computer method called APA-Net, which employs two deep learning techniques. This innovative tool allowed them to analyze how genes are processed in various cell types with precision. Beyond its implications for understanding ALS, APA-Net holds promise for studying other diseases.


Overall, the study suggests that changes in how genes are processed is likely a key factor in ALS development. The newfound computer method, APA-Net, represents a significant stride forward in comprehending these changes and stands as an asset for future research and potential medical breakthroughs.

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