|Possible Link Between a Virus and "Lou Gehrig's Disease"|
|February 2, 2000|
ALS is also known
as Lou Gehrig's Disease
|Able to think, unable to move. The mind trapped within the body.
That is how people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(ALS) describe their condition. Their thinking abilities including
memory are working, but their bodies will not respond to commands from the
brain to move. ALS is also called "Lou Gehrig's Disease" after the famous
baseball player who died of the disorder in 1941. The National
Institutes of Health estimates that there are 20,000 people in the
United States with ALS and 5,000 new cases each year. |
ALS is caused when certain neurons in the motor cortex and spinal cord die. These neurons control voluntary muscles and the ability to move. As these neurons die, a person may become weak and paralyzed. ALS is not contagious, but it may run in families.
There are several drugs to treat the symptoms of ALS, but there is no cure and the cause of this disorder is still unknown. Research published in the journal Neurology (January 2000) suggests that a virus may be responsible for ALS.
Motor neuron in
the spinal cord.
|Scientists in the US, France and Austria collaborated to examine
the spinal cords of people who died with ALS and those from a control
group of people who died of other causes. The researchers were interested
to see if the spinal cord tissue from those people with ALS was infected
with an enterovirus. When the data were analyzed,
the virus was found in the tissue from 15 of 17 patients (88.3%) who had
ALS, but in the tissue of only 1 of 29 control patients (3.4%).
These data suggest a link between the enterovirus and ALS. However, still unknown is how the virus gets into neurons and whether the presence of the virus is the cause of the disease or a result of the disease. If further research determines that the virus is a cause of ALS, then it is possible that anti-viral therapies could be developed to fight this disorder.
Spinal Cord Samples
References and further information:|
|They said it!||"I
am quite often asked: How do you feel about having
ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal
a life as possible and not think about my condition or
regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are
not that many."|
--- Steven W. Hawking, 1973 (in Black Holes and Baby Universes and other Essays)
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