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Brain Exosomes from Blood Samples May Allow Earlier Diagnosis of ALS; Unique Signature of Eight Different MicroRNAs Distinguishes ALS Brain Exosomes; Rapid Diagnosis of "Lou Gehrig's Disease" May Be Possible from Single Blood Draw

Exosomes, microscopic packets that can contain genetic material, are shed by different tissues into the blood. By sequencing microRNA within exosomes originating in the brain, it is now possible to definitively distinguish blood samples of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig’s disease) patients from healthy controls, a team of researchers at the Brain Chemistry Labs (Jackson Hole, Wyoming) reported on June 24, 2020 in an article published in Royal Society Open Biology. The open-access article is titled ““An miRNA Fingerprint Using Neural-Enriched Extracellular Vesicles from Blood Plasma: Towards a Biomarker for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis/Motor Neuron Disease.” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that typically affects people in the prime of life. "We think this is a game-changer: the methods we have pioneered will lead to the ability to rapidly diagnose ALS from a single blood draw, compared to current scientific measures where patients may have to wait for over a year for a confirmed diagnosis," says Sandra Banack (photo below; baseball star Lou Gehrig who died of ALS, is shown at left) (, PhD, Brain Chemistry Labs Senior Scientist and first author on the new paper. "People with ALS typically live an average of two to three years after diagnosis, so a rapid assessment is crucial." The new test is based on exosomes, which are microscopic packets that can contain genetic material and are shed by different tissues in the body. The researchers purified brain exosomes from blood plasma by targeting a unique protein on the exosome surface. Using the brain exosomes, the researchers extracted microRNA (miRNA), which are short sequences of genetic material that typically regulate gene expression within the cell. Eight different miRNA sequences together form a unique genetic fingerprint that distinguishes blood samples of ALS patients from those of healthy controls. According to Rachael Dunlop, PhD, Brain Chemistry Labs Senior Research Fellow, "This new genetic fingerprint may open up opportunities for novel drug discovery. Given the lack of treatments for ALS, physicians and researchers understand the importance of having a new biomarker to help in assessing the effectiveness of new drug candidates, and in enabling patients to receive experimental treatments at an earlier stage of the disease."

Walter Bradley (, DM, Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not an author on this study, but is connected with Brain Chemistry Labs. welcomed this advance. "Early diagnosis is the holy grail for many neurological diseases," he said. "These new results are extremely promising for patients and their physicians."

Translating these new techniques from the laboratory bench to the clinic may still take time, cautions Brain Chemistry Labs Director Paul Alan Cox (, PhD. "We are excited by this discovery," Dr. Cox explains, "but the analytical techniques at present are costly and time consuming."


Brain Chemistry Labs is a non-profit research institute, based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is sponsoring advanced FDA-approved clinical trials for ALS and early-stage Alzheimer's disease. With five PhDs currently on staff, the Brain Chemistry Labs anchors a consortium of 50 leading scientists from 28 institutions representing 12 different disciplines. This collaborative model is unique and rapidly advances the search for new cures unencumbered by bureaucracy that often occurs in pharmaceutical firms. For more information about Brain Chemistry Labs, go to


With respect to exosomes/extracellular vesicles (EVs), the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) Annual Meeting (ISEV 2020), including exosomes, is now VIRTUAL (July 20-22); with over 600 discussions (plenary addresses, panel sessions, oral abstract talks, poster chats, & educational sessions). The ISEV 2020 program can viewed here ( and registration can be done here ( As eminent Yale professor Philip Askenase, MD, has said, “Exosomes are a sensational biological discovery and they seem to be involved in nearly all biological and clinical processes.” Please attend the virtual ISEV 2020 meeting to learn more about these fascinating and immensely important tiny particles.

[Press release] [Brain Chemistry Labs] [Brain Chemistry Labs Research Team] [ISEV 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting] [ISEV 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting Registration]


Brain Chemistry Labs Senior Scientist Sandra Banack, PhD, uses nanoparticle analyzer to study brain exosomes at the Brain Chemistry Labs, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. (Credit: Paul Alan Cox).