A new study has unveiled more of the secrets that the fatal neurological condition ALS has been hiding from us. The exact cause of ALS is still unknown. Ongoing research on the disease aims at finding the reason that triggers the degeneration of the nervous system. One such research work has shown that the brain undergoes damage very early during the progression of the disease. Also, the motor neurones of the spine die well before symptoms begin to appear.
Awareness of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) has been spread on a large scale this year, specially on online social networks with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos that went viral. While the method of raising awareness might have been questionable (wasting water to inform people of the seriousness of a disease, really?!), people have been encouraged to invest in fundraising to finance research for the disease.
ALS is a neurological condition whereby the nervous system gradually degrades. The brain, spine, together with the muscular system with which they interact are all affected. The cause that leads to the deterioration in function of the said organs is not known. Because of this, the treatment is also lacking, since the medical experts do not know which part of the body should they tackle first. Researchers are still working on finding out the reason that triggers the degenerative process.
A recent study has brought new insight into the disease. The authors have suggested that the brain might be undergoing damage earlier than it is generally thought. The lead author, Clive Svendsen, stated that:
“In this study, we show the exact progression of ALS in animals that have an inherited form of the disease, and we expose the brain’s significant role in initiating the disease process thought previously to originate in the muscle or spinal cord”.
They reached these conclusions when they found out that the changes occurring at the level of the brain had a critical role on the onset of the disease. They had previously selectively removed the mutation that is responsible for ALS from the brains of animals affected by the disease. They also discovered that the spinal motor neurones which control muscles die prior to the appearance of symptoms, and before nerve damage happens between the spinal cord and the muscles. Furthermore, the motor neurones in the brain die in the final stages of ALS, but they start to appear dysfunctional very early.