Researchers have identified a naturally occurring molecule that has the potential for preserving sites of communication between nerves and muscles in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and over the course of aging — as well as a molecule that interferes with this helpful process.

Publishing in The Journal of Neuroscience, the research team describes a growth factor called FGFBP1, which is secreted by muscle fibers and maintains neuromuscular junctions — a critical type of synapse that allows the spinal cord to communicate with muscles, sending signals from the central nervous system to create movements.

In mouse models of ALS, a growth factor associated with the immune system, called TGF-beta, emerges and prevents muscles from secreting factors needed to maintain their connections with neurons.

FGFBP1 also gradually decreases during aging, but more precipitously in ALS, because of TGF-beta accumulates at the synapse, according to the researchers.

Paper: “Muscle fibers secrete FGFBP1 to slow degeneration of neuromuscular synapses during aging and progression of ALS”
Reprinted from materials provided by Virginia Tech.