Altered lipid metabolism may be associated with ALS

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A new study found people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), compared to those without the condition, had two and a half times the amount of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that is known to encourage inflammation and help repair wounds and damaged tissue.

Led by researchers at John Hopkins Medicine, the study focused on genetic pathways involved in how spinal motor cells process fats in people with ALS. They found increased levels of arachidonic acid in people with ALS. To reduce the arachidonic acid pathway, in mice bred to have biological characteristics of ALS, scientists used a natural anti-inflammatory compound called caffeic acid. According to the report, the caffeic acid decreased the mice’s muscle weakening symptoms. The grip strength of the treated mice was increased by 20 to 25 percent and they survived two to three weeks longer than the untreated mice.

Although the results were promising, scientists cautioned people with ALS to wait for more research to be done before treating themselves with caffeic acid, which is sold as an unregulated dietary supplement. They said safe dosage has yet to be established and that the supplement may have harmful side effects associated with cancers, gut problems, and in large amounts can diminish brain cells.