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Munich, March - A team of German and Belgian researchers has succeeded in gaining new insights into the causes of certain movement disorders and forms of dementia. Scientists including Bettina Schmid and Christian Haass from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Munich and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) were able to reproduce disease symptoms typical of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in zebrafish. A shortage of a protein called TDP-43 caused muscle wasting and stunted nerve cells. This finding supports the idea that malfunction of this protein plays a decisive role in ALS and FTD. The study is published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA” (PNAS).ALS is an incurable neurological disease which manifests as rapidly progressing muscle wasting. Both limbs and respiratory muscles are affected. This leads to impaired mobility and breathing problems. Patients commonly die within a few years after the symptoms emerged. In rare cases, of which the British physicist Stephen Hawking is the most notable, patients can live with the disease for a long time. In Germany estimates show over 150,000 patients suffering from ALS – an average of 1 in 500 people.