Amyotropic lateralsclerosis or ALS is degenerative neurological condition. It is also known asLou Gehrig’s disease, Charkot’s sclerosis or Charkot’s disease. The diseaseaffects motor neurons of the body and causes their degeneration, affecting allvoluntary muscles in the human body. Becauseof that, patients suffering from ALS experience gradual weakening and atrophyof all muscles present in the body. After the diagnosis, patients usually have 2 to5 years left and the condition always ends fatally. Some patients succeed tolive longer than that.
This is raregenetic disorder, but only in the United States, there are about 20.000 peoplesuffering from ALS. Every year, there are another 5.000 newly diagnosed casesof ALS as well. Probably the most famous ALS patients are Lou Gehrig,famous baseball player and physicist Steven Hawking.
ALS patientsexperience muscle spasms, balance problems, spasticity of the muscles, pathologicalreflexes and increased deep reflexes. Other common symptoms and signs include:fibrillations, muscle atrophy, hanging foot, speech and swallowing disorders, aswell as some involuntary cry or laughter and respiratory disorders. Many of ALSpatients suffer from depression.
People sufferingfrom ALS don’t have some unique and recognizable symptoms, making the diagnosisof this disease very difficult. There are several tests, used bydoctors in order to diagnose this neurological condition. Electromyogram or EMGhas proved to be useful for this purpose, as well as nerve conduction velocity (NCV)and spinal tap tests. X-rays and MRI scans may also provide valuableinformation to doctors, checking the spinal cord for abnormalities present inALS. Blood and urine tests may discover presence of certain abnormal substancesand muscle and brain biopsies can be used to test the tissue in the laboratory.
Early diagnosismay help both doctors and patients to choose the best from available treatmentoptions for any particular patient suffering from ALS.
There is nocure for ALS, but some measures may improve the quality of life in patientssuffering from this disease.
Fetal stem cellsare found out to help many ALS patients with weakness, mood and appetite, aswell as with spasticity of the muscles and fasciculations. Stem cell transplantationmay improve the movements, swallowing, articulation andpronunciation of the words. Clinical effects usually last for several monthsafter the transplantation. This method doesn’t affect the cause of ALS, becausescientists haven’t been able to identify it yet. Transplantation of fetal stemcells is only able to slow the progression of ALS and improve the quality of life in thesepatients.