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Health Fact Sheet
Motor Neurone Disease or
Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis


Excess Glutamate

Glutamate is a common chemical in the nervous system, which neurons use to send signals to other neurons. But, like many things, glutamate has to be present in the right amount to work: Too little leads to a lack of signalling, too much to the death of the nerve cells that receive the signal.

Evidence from studies of people with MND points to an overabundance of glutamate in the nervous system. This may result from inadequate transport of glutamate away from nerve cells after it has finished its signalling work. Experiments suggest a defect could also lie in excess production or release of glutamate by the sending cells, or it could result from defects in glutamate receptors on the receiving cells

MND Causing Genes

 Genes that, when flawed, can lead to MND, have been noted on chromosomes 2, 9, 15, 18 and the X chromosome. More mappings, identifications and greater understanding of specific genes are expected as research proceeds.

Most X-linked mutations affect males (who only have one X chromosome, paired with a Y chromosome) but rarely affect females (who have two X chromosomes, one of which usually doesn't have the mutation). However, X-linked mutations can sometimes affect females.


Many medications are being tested for potential benefits in MND.

Riluzole, which has been on the market for MND since the mid-1990s, is a glutamate inhibitor, and other drugs that interfere with the synthesis, release or cellular reception of glutamate are being studied or tested


There is strong evidence that the antibiotic, Inocycline, is proving useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.  Early indications are that this antibiotic is effective in the treatment of Huntington's Disease and researchers are confident that it will prove useful in slowing down the process of ‘programmed cell death’ which is particularly excessive in MND.

Some researchers are now of the opinion that Riluzole, the only approved drug used in the treatment of MND, may not be targeted at the best area of the brains nerve cells to control the toxic glutamate. Drugs to be developed in the future, they suggest, should target glutamate control at receptors rather than at point of release. This it is hoped, will extend life expectancy from a few months, as in the case of Riluzole, into a few years.


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