New treatment offers hope for Lou Gehrig's disease sufferers

New treatment offers hope for Lou Gehrig's disease sufferers

August 23rd, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

All real baseball fans -- particularly the fans, and the opponents, of the New York Yankees -- remember Lou Gehrig.

That's because he was one of the greatest players of years gone by.

But in 1941, Gehrig tragically died at the age of just 37 from an illness that since has carried the name "Lou Gehrig's disease."

The medical name of his affliction is "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis," or ALS for short.

ALS has caused a great deal of suffering over the years, and today, about 30,000 Americans have it. There is no treatment.

Roughly half of the people with ALS die within three years, as the mysterious illness slowly diminishes their ability to perform such tasks as speaking, moving, breathing and swallowing. The nervous system simply becomes incapable of delivering signals from the brain to the muscles.

But now there is at last some good news! Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine say they have found a key to the disease!

Dr. Teepu Siddique and other researchers think they have found a common cause of ALS, which could lead to an effective treatment. At a minimum, their discovery makes the treatment research that needs to be done "very clear and sharp," Siddique told McClatchy Newspapers.

Twenty-three scientists reportedly contributed to the discovery that now makes it possible to test for drugs that could greatly improve the prognosis for ALS sufferers -- and for sufferers of some other diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The scientific community is abuzz over the findings, and for good reason.

Treatment to relieve the suffering and premature deaths caused by ALS would be a boon to humanity.