Recently, the medical community successfully determined the cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Published August 22, 2011, WebMD’s article “Common Cause of Lou Gehrig’s Disease Found” revealed that this fatal disease results from the body’s incapacity to repair damaged nerve cells. Concentrated in specific regions of the brain and spinal cord, these destroyed cells then proceed to impair movement. Consequently, an individual faces paralysis and eventual death.
The Huffington Post announced additional details as to how specific nerve cells are “broken”. The article “Causes of ALS, Also Known As Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Pinpointed by Scientists” explained that the protein-recycling system, which is responsible for salvaging a cell’s building blocks, does not function properly, thereby interrupting the transference of information between the brain and muscles.
This innovative knowledge will prove beneficial by allowing the development and testing of new medicines aimed at improving protein function. The Huffington Post additionally claims that medical advances with Lou Gehrig’s disease may also benefit treatments for other progressive afflictions with protein dysfunctions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Current management of ALS focuses on maintaining a patient’s independence for as long as possible while treating the severity of the symptoms through muscle relaxants and other medications. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy also serve as a means to prolong a patient’s well being. While these treatments attempt to mediate the rapid progression of the disease, there is still presently no known cure for the condition.
Prior to the profound discovery as to the nature of the disease, not many concrete facts were known of ALS. Basic knowledge pertained to it being a rather common neurological disorder of persons stemming from European ancestry. Initial appearance of symptoms, including impeded movement, muscle atrophy, cramping, and twitching, as well as diagnosis generally occurs between the ages of forty and seventy.
The long-established fact that more men than women are diagnosed with ALS was scientifically confirmed by the medical revelation on the role of the mutilated ubiquilin 2 gene, discovered along side the cause of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Since this gene is located on an x-chromosome, males, who have both an x and y-chromosome, are more regularly affected by ALS then women, who have two copies of the x-chromosome, thereby offering protection against a potential hereditary disorder.
Currently, more than 30,000 Americans are suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Only an estimated three years spans from the date of diagnosis until that of death, allowing the incredible discoveries of ALS researchers to serve as a beacon of hope for those who have previously thought to have been given a certain death sentence.