Specific Areas of ALS Study
Research on ALS includes investigations to increase an understanding of the role of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in this disease. In normal physiological processes, apoptosis acts as a means to rid the body of cells that are no longer needed by prompting the cells to commit "cell suicide."
Apoptosis is pervasive in other chronic neurodegenerative conditions, such as:
Discovering what triggers apoptosis may eventually lead to a new treatment of ALS and other neurological diseases.
ALS research scientists are trying to identify a reliable biological marker (biomarker) for this disease. A biomarker is a biochemical abnormality shared by all patients with a disease. Once a biomarker is discovered, physicians will have a valuable tool to help them follow the effects of new therapies and to monitor disease progression.
Other scientists researching ALS are studying families with the disease who lack the SOD1 mutation to locate additional genes that could cause it. This work with familial ALS could lead to a greater understanding of sporadic ALS because, from a clinical standpoint, familial ALS is virtually indistinguishable from sporadic ALS. Scientists also hope to identify genetic risk factors that may predispose people to sporadic ALS.
(Click Familial Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis for more information about this particular condition.)