Blood test measures ALS risk due to environmental toxins

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Carla Mures HealthDay Reporter

(Health Day)

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS, is debilitating and there is no cure.

Now, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed an environmental risk score that can assess a person’s risk of developing ALS and survival rate after diagnosis.

Toxins such as pesticides and carcinogenic PCBs influence a person’s risk of developing and dying from ALS.

The patient’s blood sample is used for the risk score.

“For the first time, we have a way to take a tube of blood and test a person’s risk for ALS based on exposure to a number of toxins in the environment,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Stephen Goatman. He is director of the Plunger ALS Clinic at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

To study this, researchers took more than 250 blood samples from people with and without ALS in Michigan.

The researchers calculated an individual risk and survival model using 36 organic pollutants. Some of these pollutants were significantly associated with ALS risk.

The risk of developing ALS was strongest with mixtures of pesticides in the blood. Those with the highest exposure had twice the risk compared to those in the lowest exposure group.

“Our findings highlight the importance of understanding widespread environmental pollution and its impact on ALS and other diseases,” lead author Dr. Eva Feldman said in a university news release. Ta. She is the director of the NeuroNetwork for New Therapies at the University of Michigan.

Previous research by the team had found elevated levels of pesticides in the blood of people with ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The research team later showed that exposure to organic pollutants accelerates the progression of ALS and causes worse outcomes.

“Being able to assess environmental contaminants using available blood samples brings us closer to a future where we can assess disease risk and develop prevention strategies,” Feldman said.

“Environmental risk scores are strongly associated with other diseases, including cancer, especially when combined with genetic risk. “This is a fast-growing application that should be pursued,” she added. ”

This research was supported by the National ALS Registry/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more information about ALS.

Source: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, News Release, October 30, 2023

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