Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis By Bennett Kimball
What is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? • Amyotrphic comes from the Greek words: • A: Without • Myo: Muscle • Trophic: Nourishment Amyotrophic means that muscles have lost their nourishment and have become weaker. Lateral means that the disease affects the sides of the spinal cord where the nerves are located. Sclerosis means that scar tissue has replaced the healthy nerves at the diseased part of the spine. Nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord that control movement stop working. The muscles shrink, the patient becomes paralyzed and eventually cannot swallow or breathe.
Lou Gehrig’s Disease Amyotrophic Lateral Schlerosis (ALS) is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The New York Yankee’s Hall of Fame baseball player was diagnosed with the disease in the 1930’s and was forced to retire from the game.
Stephen Hawking: The Exception ALS affects each patient differently. Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, known for his research on black holes and quantum gravity, has lived with the disease for 50 years. He uses a special wheelchair and talks with a special computer that he controls with his cheek.
Common Cause? In August, 2011, a Northwestern professor of neurology, TeepuSiddique, MD, and his research team published findings from 20 years of research about ALS. The team discovered that the disease results from the inability of a protein system to repair the nerve cells that tell the muscles what to do. The protein is ubiquilin2,. It is involved in recycling damaged and misformed proteins in certain nerve cells. This protein does not work well in people with ALS. Damaged nerve cells and the ubiquilin2 protein collects in the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord.
Treatment and Hope Today, there are not many ways to treat ALS. Physical Therapy can help some patients. Drugs can help slow the disease for other patients. Special wheelchairs can help a patient get around and a ventilator can help them breathe, but there is not a cure for ALS. The research at Northwestern University is promising. If a cause is determined, better ways to treat ALS could be found. There is hope.
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