Medical Breakthrough: Common Cause of Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) Revealed

Category: Health / Aug 22, 2011 10:15AM EDT
Researchers at Northwestern University say they many have found a common cause behind amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This recent discovery could lead to an effective treatment for ALS… it could also help develop treatments for other degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimers. The journal ‘Nature’ reports that the breakdown of cellular recycling systems in the neurons of the spinal cord and brain is the common cause of all forms of ALS. The problem lies in the system that recycles the building blocks of proteins inside neurons. ALS disrupts signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, causing slow paralysis, making it gradually harder for those inflicted with the disease to talk, move, swallow and ultimately breathe. According the the LA Times, ALS affects roughly 30,000 American’s a year, and with no treatment for the paralysis, 50% of all ALS patients die within three years. One neuroscientist with Northwestern University claims that this is the first time they can connect ALS to a clear cut biomedical mechanism, which makes the direction they have to go in to find a treatment very clear. They can now test for drugs that would help regulate the protein pathway, or optimize it, to allow it to function normally. New York Yankee baseball star Lou Gehrig died of the disease in 1941, at the age of 37, which gave ALS its name. ALS was featured in the 1997 New York Times Bestseller, ‘Tuesday’s with Morrie,’ the true story of a sociology professor who uses his experience with ALS to teach valuable life lessons to a former student. The medical breakthrough will be announced in today’s issue of the research journal Nature.