‘Junk’ DNA might reduce the risk of developing ALS
By using samples from 70,000 people, researchers found the specific mutation
One gene might reduce the risk of developing the deadly motor neuron disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS, a new study by the Israeli research institution Weizmann Institute of Science reveals.
By using samples from 70,000 people, the researchers found a specific mutation in noncoding DNA - or “junk” DNA as it is commonly dubbed because of its lack of important biological function - that presumably reduces or halts the disease from developing, The Times of Israel reported.
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Hitherto, 25 genes were linked to ALS as they caused or worsened the disease.
However, the findings of this genetic mutation might help future ALS patients as it works by “inhibiting a toxic pathway,” Dr. Chen Eitan, one of the professors behind the study, told The Times of Israel.
“When we looked at noncoding DNA, we found a mutation that does the opposite. It actually appears to significantly reduce the chances that a person will have ALS, to a fifth of the usual risk,” she said.
“So in short we found a ‘hit’ associated with ALS, but a mutation that actually cuts vulnerability instead of vice-versa.”
Although these findings are good news for patients diagnosed with ALS, it is also useful in future genetic research, Eitan said, emphasizing that scientists should not “ignore noncoding regions of DNA – not just in ALS research, but in studying other diseases with a genetic component as well.”