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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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Lou Gehrig, whom the disease was named after.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as "ALS" or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. Motor neurons that reach from the brain to the spinal cord and muscles are slowly killed by the disease, thus giving the body no more muscular ability because the brain cannot reach them. ALS was first discovered by Jean-Marie Charcot in 1874. The disease was popularized by Lou Gehrig, a famous baseball player who had to retire because of the severity of the disease, and after his death, the disease was named after him. Today, around 30,000 people are affected by ALS. The disease usually affects those in the 40-70 year old range, but truly can attack anyone. The causes of ALS are still primarily unknown, but genetics do play a part. ALS has been downplayed in the media in previous years, but in 2014, a large movement swept the nation called the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" that challenged people to dump ice on their heads, donate money towards ALS, or do both. It raised over $100 million. ALS is still a disease that scientists know little about, so any donations help them out greatly. Hopefully this disease will be conquered in the near future before it harms more lives.

History

Jean-Martin Charcot, "The Father of Neurology".

ALS was first discovered in 1874, when Jean-Martin Charcot, "The Father of Neurology", discovered the characteristics of the syndrome. It is called ALS, which stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Another term for this disease is Lou Gehrig's Disease. [1]. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player who played for the New York Yankees. He set a record for most consecutive games played (2130), but his streak ended in 1939 when he was diagnosed with ALS. He was forced to stop playing baseball at age 39 because of the disease, and he passed away two years later. As probably the most famous man to first contract the disease, it was named after him.

In present day, ALS affects about 30,000 people currently and 5,000 new cases are found every year. It usually affects people from the ages of 40 to 70, but can affect anyone. An estimate says that ALS causes around 5 per every 100,000 deaths in people 20 or older. It is called a syndrome because it has multiple different patterns, and a syndrome is basically a group of symptoms that together are characteristic of a specific disorder, disease, or the like. Current research is providing treatments and preventions for this disease, but as of right now there is no cure. [2].

Causes

Little is known about the cause of ALS. Over 90 percent of the time, there isn't a clear reason for the disease. Nothing involved with daily habits, diet habits, or anything else gives any clues as to where this disease comes from. It often appears after at least 20 years of a person's life, with no clues or signs before that. A small number of cases are inherited through family genetics, but not much has been learned through that information. [3].

It is known that ALS is a neurological disease that causes muscle weakness and degeneration, but no one has pinpointed a cause. Researchers are studying possible causes for ALS, including gene mutation. Chemical imbalance is also another possible cause researchers have looked into, because people with ALS generally have a higher level of glutamate around the nerve cells in their spinal fluid. Disorganized immune response occurs when a person's immune system begins attacking itself, which may lead to the death of nerve cells. Lastly, protein mishandling within the nerve cells could lead to a slow accumulation of abnormal forms of these proteins within the cell, which would kill the nerve cells after time. [4] These are the possible causes that are being studied right now, but researchers still have a lot of work to do before ALS can be stopped.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Two Men Partake in the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge"

ALS has been kept quite hidden for most of the time that humans have been aware of it. People seem too scared to talk about it, because it most often kills people affected by it. However, in 2014, a movement known as the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" spread widely and quickly all over the country and over the world. People took videos of themselves and, after explaining what the video was about and nominating other people to do the same, they would dump a bucket of ice water over their heads. Although this act itself does not help ALS at all, the mention of the disease caught rapidly and people all over the world heard about it. From the beginning of the Ice Bucket Challenge in early summer of 2014 until the end of August of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised over $100 million dollars to fight ALS. [5].

Neurological Diseases

References

  1. History of ALS "NSTA" 14, October 2014 (Date-of-access).
  2. ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis "John Hopkins Medical" 14, October 2014 (Date-of-Access).
  3. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet "National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke" 25 October, 2014.
  4. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis "Mayo Clinic" 9, April 2014 (Date-of-Publication).
  5. The Als Ice Bucket Challenge has Raised $100 Million -- and Counting "Forbes" 25 October, 2014. (Date-of-Access).