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ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, the disease is still most closely associated with his name. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
In the summer of 2014, millions of people started talking about ALS. Keep the conversation going to increase understanding of the disease.
Perspective from Hiroshi Mitsumoto, M.D., Cleveland Clinic
ALSA Center and Chair of ALSA's Medical Advisory
Committee: "In a review of ALS published in the
Archives of Neurology in 1988, I quote Lewis Thomas.
'The whole field of biomedical science is on the
move as never before in the long history of medicine.
I don't know what will happen over the next 20 years,
but my guess is that we are on the verge of discoveries
that will match the best achievement in infectious disease
a generation ago.' In ten years - just half of Lewis' prediction
- we now know the gene responsible for some familial ALS;
we have the first drug we can prescribe for ALS; we have
a real animal model for this disease and we have incredibly
important knowledge on the cell death mechanisms of
motor neurons in ALS. Yes, the progress still appears
to be too slow for anyone waiting for a breakthrough, but
we are truly on the verge of more exciting discoveries.
We have solid reasons for strong hope in ALS." There is
no question about whether the cause of ALS will be found;
it is only a question of when.