Breakthrough to a Future Cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
The Deadly Disease that Begins with Mild Symptoms
A disease that starts off with rather mild symptoms that could be typical for several diseases turns out to be very deadly. In the beginning there may be mild muscle twitches, cramps and perhaps some weakness. There may also be difficulty with something simple like trying to close a button on a shirt. Eventually, there will be more serious symptoms. The disease is not easy to diagnose and there are several other diseases that mimic it like Lyme Disease. The disease is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball giant for the New York Yankees and one of the great hallmarks of American baseball. While most people who get this disease are age 50 or over, Lou Gehrig was only in his 30s when it was diagnosed and he died at the age of 38.
ALS is a Motor Neuron Disease
ALS is a rather rare neurological motor neuron disease of the nerve cells (neurons) that control voluntary muscles like those involved in eating, chewing, talking and walking. For some unknown reason the upper and lower neurons that relay messages from the brain to the muscles begin to die. To date there is no way of halting the progression of the disease. The disease is always fatal. It causes paralysis in muscles and eventually attacks muscles involved in breathing and most people afflicted with it die from respiratory failure.
Symptoms of ALS
The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists the following signs of ALS ,which can also be for other less serious disease conditions:
- Fasciculations (muscle twitches) in the arm, shoulder, leg or tongue
- Muscle cramps
- Tight and stiff muscles (spasticity)
- Muscle weakness affecting a limb like an arm or leg or in the neck or diaphragm.
- Slurred and nasal speech
- Difficulty with chewing or swallowing
Risk Factors for ALS
While it can strike at any age, it is most commonly found between the ages of 50 and 75.
About 5-10% of the ALS victims have inherited a defective gene from one of their parents. In fact, this same defective gene also causes a disease of the front temporal lobes of the brain called Front Temporal Lobe Dementia (FTD) and some people suffer from both ALS and FTD.
Veterans and Athletes
For some unknown reason it is found at higher rates in athletes like Lou Gehrig and in servicemen. It is speculated that men in the military are often exposed to toxic chemicals.
Israeli Researchers Have found a Way to a Possible Cure for ALS
Israeli Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found a step that may lead to a cure further down the road for ALS. Results of their study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Stressing that it will take time, the researchers hope that the discoveries they have made will lead to a development of a drug in the future that could treat this devastating disease. Basically, they discovered that the muscles themselves actually secrete toxic molecules that lead to their own destruction. They also discovered that a reduction in a certain type of MicroRNA (the miR-126-5p) led to the muscles secreting toxicity. It is their belief that a cure may be developed from this particular MicroRNA to stop this toxic process. In fact, they were able to show the healing benefits of this particular MicroRNA on mouse models. The mice that were treated with it actually showed improvement including the ability to walk.
ALS and Palliative Care
Ditmas Park Rehab Center, Brooklyn NY
From the moment ALS is diagnosed it is possible to receive palliative care. Read more about palliative care in our blog from June 7, 2018. Ditmas Park Rehab Center in Brooklyn NY is known for its excellent palliative care.
Brooklyn Hospitals near Ditmas Park
NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)
ALS is such a dreadful disease, but hope is on the horizon that recent research from Tel Aviv University may lead to a cure down the road. If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with ALS you can get palliative care.