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ALS Crowd Radio: Dr. Avindra Nath, MD: An Activated Virus Causing ALS?

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Dr. Nath is an expert in viruses and retroviruses.  He speaks about studying human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K) in the context of ALS, and why it could be important.  HERV-K is normally dormant, but Dr. Nath's study found that in ALS patient brains it has been activated at fairly high levels. HERV-K creates proteins that are toxic to neurons, which points to a possible cause for sporadic ALS.  Dr. Nath believes that antiviral drugs could be used to inhibit HERV-K, and possibly alter the course of ALS.  More research and testing is underway, along with an intense search for an ALS biomarker to use in human clinical trials to prove effectiveness of these treatments. Many antiviral drugs are already FDA approved and commonly prescribed for use in HIV treatment.

Dr. Avindra Nath is the Clinical Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health. Prior to joining the NIH in 2011, he was the Director of the Division of Neuroimmunology and Neurological Infections at Johns Hopkins University for 9 years. His current responsibilities are to oversee and build the clinical research program at NINDS. He is also the Director of the Translational Neuroscience Center. The office has a clinical trials unit that provides assistance in all stages of protocol development and monitoring. It also oversees a unique training program for clinical fellows and residents in Neurology and Neurosurgery. The office oversees a variety of specialized clinics and provides services for investigation and consultation for patients with neurological disorders.

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