Narrator: This is Science Today. Neurons damaged by the debilitating, neurodegenerative disease, ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, are greatly affected by their surrounding, non-neuronal cells. Those were the findings of a multi-center study led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Don Cleveland, who co-led the study, says in ALS, motor neurons - the long and complex nerve cells that control voluntary movement - become damaged.
Cleveland: In terms of the course of the mechanism of the disease, it's really a conspiracy of damage to the neuron and to the partner cells that are essential for their survival. What this study demonstrates is that you don't have to do the Herculean task of replacing these yard long cells. In fact, if you simply improve the neighborhood, you can probably have a very profound effect on the course of the disease by replacing the non-neuronal cells, rather than aiming at the motor neurons themselves.
For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.