What is ALS?

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LS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that destroys nerve cells. It targets the brain and spinal cord. Damage leads to scarring that makes it difficult for signals to pass through the nerves.

Eventually, motor neurons die off and capacity to control muscle movement is lost. This can rob the patient of the ability to speak, eat, move, or breathe. Effects of ALS target motor neurons that enable voluntary movements.

What Conditions is ALS Associated With?

There are two types of ALS:

Sporadic ALS

Sporadic ALS accounts for over 90% of U.S. cases. It can affect anyone, although diagnosis is most common between 40-70. People with sporadic ALS don’t have any family history of the disorder. The mechanism by which it develops is unknown.

Familial ALS

Familial ALS is associated only with families who exhibit specific genetic characteristics. In those families, there is a roughly 50% chance each relative will develop the disease.

Symptoms of ALS can include:

  • Difficulty walking, picking up objects, or performing other daily activities.
  • Tripping and falling.
  • Weakness in the hands, feet, legs, or ankles.
  • Slurred speech or difficulty swallowing.
  • Muscle cramps or muscle twitching.
  • Changes in cognitive ability, emotions, or behavior.

ALS symptoms change over time according to disease progression. After an ALS diagnosis, it is important for the ALS patient to have ongoing medical supervision.

ALS Lifestyle Changes and Recovery

ALS is a progressive disorder (symptoms get worse over time). There is no cure. Most medications are limited in their ability to preserve muscle function or slow the disease. However, there are four FDA-approved drugs for treating ALS.

ALS patients can benefit from a full course of physical and occupational therapies. In these approaches, a therapist guides the patient through a series of motions intended to strengthen muscles and maintain specific functions.

In the early stages of the disease, strength training exercises that develop the patient’s muscles may help. Although healthy diet and exercise may improve quality of life through the course of the disease, lifestyle changes do not control ALS.

What Research Currently Exists Around ALS?

ALS medical research is a major focus of clinical study.

As recently as May of 2019, new ALS clinical research disclosed a novel ALS treatment. Recognizing that a protein called membralin is a significant part of the disease process, doctors are looking at new ALS treatments that involve raising the body’s level of membralin.

New ALS drugs may take advantage of the effects of glutamate inhibition, preventing excessive amounts of neurotransmitters from reducing nerve function, but this will require further ALS medical research. Much current research also focuses on identifying genetic contributors to ALS.

Why Are Further ALS Clinical Trials Important?

Medical research on ALS has made great strides over the last few decades. However, ALS is still relatively mysterious. ALS clinical trials are necessary to fully understand the disease and its progress. ALS clinical trials related to familial ALS may help sporadic ALS and vice versa.

Current ALS Clinical Trials

This is the full directory of ALS clinical trials from ClinicalTrials.gov. If you have an ALS clinical trial you would like to share on our website, please contact our staff.

Conclusion

About 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS every year, with 16,000 living with the disease. New ALS clinical resources are on the cusp of finding ways to greatly inhibit the condition. Likewise, people with genetic factors can receive the care they need earlier in life. To achieve this, however, patients and those with genetic risk should participate in ALS clinical trials.