Hope For Team Gleason

By: Victoria Trainor

A breakthrough in research on the causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis offers promise for an effective treatment.  ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrigs Disease is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that are necessary for voluntary muscle movement.


Researchers at Northwestern University, a private research facility in Illinois, have been studying several causes of ALS on a more cellular level. Understanding the biomedical mechanics of these causes is the basis for an effective treatment.


In ALS, cells in the nervous system start to deteriorate. They are unable to do their primary function, which is carrying brain signals to the body’s muscular system. Without these signals, patients eventually are plagued with paralysis. They will gradually lose the ability to move, speak, breathe, or swallow on their own. ALS does not affect the five senses.


The most common cause of the disease is said to be a result of the body’s inability to repair nerve cells which is called the protein degradation pathway. The damaged proteins build up in the cell, which end up blocking the pathway for transmission of brain signals which cause paralysis.


ALS is commonly diagnosed among people who are physically active, such as Steve Gleason, “Special Teams Player of the Year” for the New Orleans Saints. Gleason made the first score in the Saints first home game after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city.


In January 2011, Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Today, he is an inspiration to everyone because of his commitment to helping those who suffer from neuromuscular diseases through the Gleason Initiative Foundation.

With no known treatments or cure, 50 percent of patients die within two to three years of their diagnosis. Now that researchers understand the cause, they can finally begin to design drugs that will be a game changer for this disease.

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