Retroviruses in MND

Professor Ammar Al-Chalabi is investigating the potential effects of the HERV-K retrovirus in MND.

Retroviruses are viruses which can integrate themselves into the human genome so that they are inherited like normal genes.

Professor Ammar Al-Chalabi is a Consultant Neurologist and Professor of Neurology and Complex Disease Genetics. He is also Director of King's MND Care and Research Centre and leads King's Motor Nerve Clinic at Kings College London.

Professor Al-Chalabi will investigate the role a specific retrovirus has on those affected by Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Prof Al-Chalabi said: "The genes that we inherit from our parents carry the instructions our cells use to function normally.

"About 1% of all the genetic material in any person codes for human proteins, and the rest either controls how the instructions are read or does not have an obvious function.

"Surprisingly, 8% of our genetic information is the remains of viruses that have incorporated themselves into our cells through human evolution and are inherited along with everything else.

"There is mounting evidence that one of these inherited virus sequences called HERV-K, might be toxic to motor neurons.

"We have the entire genome sequences of 16,000 people, half with motor neuron disease and half unaffected. For some of these people we also have information on the way their genes are expressed and what is controlling that.

"In this project, using powerful computing methods, we will screen these gene sequences, comparing the properties of HERV-K in each group. Because we also have information about the way the condition behaved in each person, we can look for relationships between gene sequences and the way motor neuron disease affects each person.

"This group of inherited viruses is potentially treatable, so if we can find out how they affect motor neurons we may be able to develop a therapy."

Find out more

For more information, please contact:

Prof Ammar Al-Chalabi
Kings College London
ammar.al-chalabi@kcl.ac.uk

Project title: Multi-omics analysis of human endogenous retroviruses in ALS

quote marks

“There is mounting evidence that one of these inherited virus sequences called HERV-K, might be toxic to motor neurons... This group of inherited viruses is potentially treatable, so if we can find out how they affect motor neurons we may be able to develop a therapy.”

Prof Al-Chalabi | Kings College London

Prof Al-Chalabi | Kings College London