What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a neuro- muscular disease that causes degeneration of voluntary muscles and nerves. Stephen Hawking is a famous personality affected by ALS.
Other names - Maladie de Charcot, Lou Gehrig's disease, Motor Neurone Disease (MND)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly progressive and fatal disease that is caused by the degeneration of motor neurons that control voluntary muscular movements of the body.
It is also called Lou Gehrig's disease after the famed American baseballer by the same name, who died of ALS in 1941, aged 37. Stephen Hawking, the world renowned physicist, is among those afflicted, currently alive.
ALS is classified under 'motor neuron disorders' and is characterized by the gradual degeneration of motor neurons which are nerve cells localized in the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord which control communication between the nervous system and the voluntary muscles all over the body.
Upper motor neurons (brain)
Lower motor neurons (spinal cord)
The disorder begins when the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate and stop sending signals to the muscles bringing about weakening, twitching (fasciculation) and their eventual atrophy. Initially the disease may manifest as difficulty in walking or running, writing or speech. The patient may ultimately loose control over all voluntary movements and there comes a stage when the brain no longer controls voluntary movements of the body and the patient becomes weak and is unable to walk or move his arms or legs.
Breathing too becomes difficult as the muscles of the chest and the diaphragm are damaged. Although a ventilator may help for a while, the afflicted persons very often die from respiratory failure within 3-5 years of disease onset.
Generally, the intelligence of the patient is not impaired. However certain changes in cognitive function is brought about such as memory loss, problems with making decisions and depression. However, the person's ability to see, smell, hear, taste or touch is not affected.
ALS is one of the common neuromuscular diseases which mostly affects men, more than women, of all races and ethnic background. Majority of the disease ( almost 90%) is sporadic and only in 10% of cases are familial (inherited). It is generally seen in people aged over 50 years.
The actual causes of ALS are not very clear. Familial predisposition has been implicated, but in the vast majority of affected people it occurs de novo. In 90-95% of ALS cases the disease is not familial, but occurs sporadically.
5-10% of all ALS cases are genetically determined. One-fifth of these cases occur due to a mutation in the gene SOD1 that codes for the enzyme superoxidase dismutase 1. It is obvious that other genes are involved and are waiting to be discovered.
ALS cannot be completely cured but medications are available that can control the symptoms and prolong life. Some people can live for as long as even ten years with proper treatment.
What is new in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)?
Risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS could be increased by intense physical activity, finds a new study. Lifetime physical activity was associated with heightened risk of ALS, after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, sex, smoking and alcohol intake, and other potential workplace exposures. The heightened risk was 6 percent for leisure time activities; 7 percent for workplace activities; and 6 percent for all activities combined.
Latest Publications and Research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- ALS-causing D169G mutation disrupts the ATP-binding capacity of TDP-43 RRM1 domain. - Published by PubMed
- The mRNA-based reprogramming of fibroblasts from a SOD1E101G familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patient to induced pluripotent stem cell line UOWi007. - Published by PubMed
- Repeated intramuscular transplantations of hUCB-MSCs improves motor function and survival in the SOD1 G93A mice through activation of AMPK. - Published by PubMed
- DNA damage accumulates and responses are engaged in human ALS brain and spinal motor neurons and DNA repair is activatable in iPSC-derived motor neurons with SOD1 mutations. - Published by PubMed
- Telehealth as part of specialized ALS care: feasibility and user experiences with "ALS home-monitoring and coaching". - Published by PubMed
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Dr. Reeja Tharu. (2018, May 07). Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)-Lou Gehrig's disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment. Medindia. Retrieved on Jun 27, 2022 from https://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis.htm.
Dr. Reeja Tharu. "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)-Lou Gehrig's disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment". Medindia. Jun 27, 2022. <https://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis.htm>.
Dr. Reeja Tharu. "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)-Lou Gehrig's disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment". Medindia. https://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis.htm. (accessed Jun 27, 2022).
Dr. Reeja Tharu. 2021. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)-Lou Gehrig's disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment. Medindia, viewed Jun 27, 2022, https://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis.htm.