Gregorio Valdez highlighted in story from top ALS nonprofit biotech organization

Gregorio Valdez, Ph.D.

Gregorio Valdez, Ph.D.

Gregorio Valdez, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, was featured in an article about promising research that could slow the onset and progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, of ALS. The article appeared on the homepage of the ALS Therapy Development Institute, the top nonprofit biotechnology organization dedicated to developing effective treatments for ALS.

The story detailed recent developments in research on keeping nerves “plugged in” to skeletal muscles. As ALS progresses, more and more neuromuscular junctions—the interfaces between nerves and muscles—degrade and disconnect. This leads to the motor control issues that are a hallmark of the disease. Some of the neuromuscular junctions, however, reconnect and begin working again. Researchers believe that, if they can figure out how to help the body repair more of these connection sites and keep them working, they may be able to delay the advancement of some of the worst symptoms of the disease.

Valdez’s research has investigated microRNA called miR-206. Without it, mouse models of ALS appear to progress in the disease more quickly and die more than three weeks earlier. Valdez discovered that without miR-206, more than twice as many neuromuscular junctions were unplugged in mice than those with the microRNA in their muscles. After further research, Valdez discovered that miR-206 reduces the production of a protein called HDAC4, high levels of which make it difficult for nerves to reattach to muscles.

The story, “Micromanaging ALS,” can be found on the ALS Therapy Development Institute’s website.