Scientists studying ALS are hoping to discover what causes it and to develop more effective treatment methods, among other things. To that end, ALS research scientists are trying to better understand apoptosis (programmed cell death) and examining the disease in families. Investigators are optimistic that research studies will eventually lead to better treatments for ALS.
The goals of ALS research are to:
- Find the cause or causes of ALS
- Understand the mechanisms involved in the progression of the disease
- Develop effective treatment methods.
Scientists involved in researching ALS are seeking to:
- Understand the mechanisms that trigger selective motor neurons to degenerate in ALS
- Find effective approaches to halt the processes leading to cell death.
To do this, scientists are completing studies in:
- Animals to identify the means by which superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) mutations lead to the destruction of neurons
- The excessive accumulation of free radicals, which has been implicated in ALS.
Research scientists also are examining how the loss of neurotrophic factors may be involved in ALS symptoms. Neurotrophic factors are chemicals found in the brain and spinal cord that play a vital role in the development, specification, maintenance, and protection of neurons.
Studying how these factors may be lost and how such a loss may contribute to motor neuron degeneration may lead to:
- A greater understanding of ALS and the development of neuroprotective strategies
- Finding the cause or causes of motor neuron degeneration in ALS
- Developing therapies to slow down the progression of the disease.