Currently there is only one drug in the world, called Riluzole, that is approved for treating ALS. Riluzole works by suppressing the activity of glutamate – a chemical messenger in the central nervous system.
Unfortunately, Riluzole has been shown to lose its effectiveness in patients as the disease progresses, and it only prolongs the lives of ALS patients for between three to six months.
The researchers decided to analyse the brains of mice infected with ALS, instead of analysing healthy animals. They identified two specific pumps in the brain that interact with Riluzole, namely P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and breast-cancer resistant protein.
When they blocked these two types of proteins by treating the mice with an experimental compound called Elacridar together with Riluzole, the scientists found that the treatments extended the life span of the mice and alleviated some of the disease's symptoms, such as improving and preserving muscle strength.