The most common form of motor neurone disease (MND) is caused by the loss of a key protein, researchers have said.
A study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that the role of a protein known as TDP-43 is key in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known commonly as Lou Gehrig's disease.
It was found that in cases of ALS, TDP-43 collects in the cell's cytoplasm instead of performing its intended function of maintaining correct levels of ribonucleic acid in the nucleus.
Additionally, it was revealed that this lack of the TDP-43 protein, affects around one-third of genes in the brain.
Gene Yeo, researcher at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, elaborated: "This autoregulation keeps TDP-43 protein levels in check. The loss of TDP-43 removes this check; more TDP-43 is generated and more is likely to accumulate in the cytoplasm."
It is thought that two new cases of MND are diagnosed in every 100,000 people each year, with ALS accounting for 60 to 70 per cent of all MND cases.