13 December 2010. The Alzheimer Research Forum and Prize4Life, Inc. are proud to announce the launch of ALSGene, an online field synopsis of genetic association studies in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease in which motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord degenerate rapidly, which ultimately leads to paralysis and premature death. Similar to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, susceptibility to ALS is in large part genetically determined. Some 5-10 percent of ALS cases have a family history, and these patients most commonly inherit the disease in an autosomal-dominant manner. ALS without an obvious familial aggregation (“sporadic ALS”), on the other hand, is likely governed by a variety of genetic and non-genetic factors that define an individual’s risk to develop the disorder, as well as his or her onset age, clinical presentation, and progression. Within the last 15 years, hundreds of scientific publications from research groups worldwide have been published, claiming or refuting genetic association between common genetic variants and risk for ALS or ALS endophenotypes. More recently, a first wave of genomewide association studies (GWAS) was published for ALS, reporting associations with loci previously not considered.
To facilitate the interpretation of these—still largely divergent—genetic association findings, Lars Bertram and his group at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany, in collaboration with the Alzheimer Research Forum and ALS nonprofit Prize4Life, Inc., have started to create the ALSGene database. Building on the highly successful model Bertram and colleagues developed first for Alzheimer's (AlzGene), then Parkinson's (PDGene), schizophrenia (SZGene), and multiple sclerosis (MSGene), ALSGene will systematically collect and annotate genetic association studies from the field of ALS and make the results of their work freely available online.
One main feature of ALSGene will be the calculation and posting of up-to-date meta-analyses of the available data, allowing an easy interpretation and comparison of the most compelling genetics findings in ALS. The launch of ALSGene was announced 12 December at the Motor Neurone Disease Association’s 21st International Symposium on ALS/MND held on 11-13 December 2010 in Orlando, Florida. There, Bertram presented a preliminary set of data and results from ALSGene. As of this week, ALSGene contains 62 studies on 51 genes, and 20 meta-analyses. Content creation is expected to be complete by April 2011. Members of the ALSGene curatorial team in Dr. Bertram's laboratory include Christina M. Lill, M.D.; Ute Zauft, M.S.; Esther Meissner, Ph.D.; Johannes T. Roehr, B.S.; Brit-Maren M. Schjeide, B.S.; and Leif M. Schjeide, M.S. Funding for ALSGene comes from the Prize4Life, Inc..—Gabrielle Strobel.