Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons carry nervous signals from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles in the whole body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.
When motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to start and control muscle movement is lost. Voluntary muscle action is progressively affected, resulting ultimately in total paralysis. The worst part is that all other neurological functions aren’t affected : the patient stays perfectly lucid, prisoner of a body that is less and less able to move.
ALS’ causes are unknown, but the disease is seemingly provoked by multiple causes and not by a single one. Among the most plausible causes are a genetic predisposition, an excess of glutamate, growth factors shortage, toxic-environmental factors and more.
ALS strikes mostly male and female adults older than 20 (more often 50 and older). In Italy three new ALS cases are declared every day, and there are 6-8 cases for every 100.000 people (source : AISLA).
Today no cure exists for ALS. The only medicine, able to slow down motor neuron degeneration, is riluzole. In recent years searches for a cure have multiplied, while scientists try to find products able to ameliorate patients’ quality of life in their vital functions (feeding, breathing…).