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JOURNAL: American Neurological Association
AUTHORS: Dr. John Weiss
ABSTRACT: Glutamate produces more disruptive free radicals in motor neurons than in other spinal neurons, according to a preclinical study of spinal neuron/astrocyte cultures.
COMMENTARY: The finding strengthens the hypothesis that excess oxygen free radicals, stimulated by elevated levels of extracellular glutamate, promote the loss of motor neurons and nerve cells in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In healthy nerve cells, glutamate pumps in surrounding astrocytes successfully clear the molecule from the extracellular environment, according to Dr. Weiss. Yet when the pumps break down, the level of glutamate rises.
The excess glutamate floating outside motor neurons consequently trigger a feed-forward cycle, in which the glutamate outside the neurons induces the neurons to increase free radical production.
The cell cultures have provided a baseline to help examine how the relationship between glutamate and astrocyte may work.