Artificial-intelligence-proposed ALS Therapy Shows Promise in Lab and in Animals

José Lopes, PhD avatar

by José Lopes, PhD |

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An artificial-intelligence-proposed ALS therapy prevented the death of movement-control neurons in a lab and delayed the onset of the disease in an animal model, according to British scientists.

The University of Sheffield team said the AI company BenevolentAI suggested the therapy, which has yet to have a name.

The drug candidate promotes cell resistance against oxidative stress. Damage from oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the body’s production of free radicals and its ability to counteract their harmful effects, can lead to disease.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The life expectancy of those who develop it is only two to five years after diagnosis. The hallmark of ALS is an inability to control muscle movements, ultimately leading to respiratory failure.

Current therapies are unable to stop or reverse the disease’s progression. Regulators have approved only two treatments for it – Rilutek and Radicava, which just received U.S. Federal Drug Administration authorization.

BenevolentAI’s therapy prevented motor neuron cell death in a lab and delayed ALS onset in an animal model, the Sheffield researchers said.

The team continues to study the therapy at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN). The work is being led by Dr. Richard Mead, a lecturer in translational neuroscience, and Dr. Laura Ferraiuolo, a lecturer in translational neurobiology. The researchers expect to present their findings at the Motor Neurone Disease Association 28th International Symposium in Boston in December.

“This is an exciting development in our research for a treatment for ALS,” Mead said in a press release. “BenevolentAI came to us with some newly identified compounds discovered by their technology — two of which were new to us in the field and, following this research, are now looking very promising. Our plan now is to conduct further detailed testing and continue to quickly progress towards a potential treatment for ALS.”

The Sheffield research “demonstrates that the hypothesis and drug candidate that our technology identified has delayed the onset of cell death in the gold standard model of ALS,” said Kenneth Mulvany, the founder and director of BenevolentAI. “We are incredibly encouraged by these findings. We very much look forward to the results of SITraN’s further studies and are hopeful for the positive impact that this drug could have for people living with ALS.”