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Innovation and Lou Gehrig’s Disease: New Hope for ALS Treatments

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments patient

Approximately six out of every 100,000 Americans suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as  Lou Gehrig’s disease. While this figure may not seem alarming, the severity of the condition certainly is. In addition to ALS disease symptoms causing progressive paralysis and respiratory trouble, the condition is both fatal and incurable. And the last FDA-approved drug for primary ALS treatment to be released has been over two decades ago.

cartoon of a man with ALS disease symptoms laying on a hospital bed while a female doctor talks with him
New Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments may sooner or later be available to help improve patients’ quality of life.

Fortunately, active research for new Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments is ongoing. In part, awareness and funding increased as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge promoted over the last five years. But numerous research studies in various neuromedicine labs are being conducted as well. There is no approval yet to manage ALS disease symptoms, but clinical trials look promising. The following takes a look as some of the evolving Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments that may soon be available.

The Impact of ALS Disease Symptoms

To better appreciate the need for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments, there is a need for an overview of ALS disease symptoms and progression. In essence, ALS represents a disease that causes progressive paralysis throughout the body. It affects not only the motor neurons in the spinal cord but also the motor nerve pathways in the body. As a result, advancing weakness, cramps, and loss of function occur that often ends in respiratory failure. The average length of time from diagnosis to death is usually around three years.

While familial cases of Lou Gehrig’s disease occur, over 90 percent are spontaneous in nature without a family history. Four out of every five cases have limb weakness early in the course of the disease as part of the ALS disease symptoms. About a quarter of patients have other ALS disease symptoms such as swallowing difficulty, speaking problems, and problems with airway protection. Once the involvement of respiratory muscles occurs, risks for infection, poor activity function, and respiratory failure increase. Given the severity of these complaints and the rapid progression, there is a desperate need for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments.

Potential for New Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Treatments

Limited Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments exist today. There was approval for Riluzole in the late 1990s, which slows the disease progression only slightly. Riluzole possibly works by reducing damage to neurons caused by excitatory chemicals. Other therapies are given simply to relieve ALS disease symptoms like cramps, depression, respiratory congestion. These latter therapies, however, do not slow the disease progression at all. This is why there has been strong advocacy for new Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments as of late.

Two recent research studies have suggested new Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments may soon be available. Orion Corporation, a Finnish pharmaceutical company, is currently enrolling patients for its Levosimendan drug study. This oral medication may reduce ALS disease symptoms related to poor respiratory function. Specifically, it improved overall respiratory volumes, which may enhance overall function and delay mortality.

In a second study, AB Science, A French pharmaceutical agency, tested Masitinib as an injectable add-on drug to Riluzole. In targeting cells related to spinal neurons, the drug was shown to improve respiratory function by 27 percent in ALS patients. The study was a Phase 2/3 trial, which indicates there is a need for additional research. But this also looks to be a potentially promising medication among the new Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments possible.

Finally, recent research has also indicated that adding higher doses of glucose may help Lou Gehrig disease patients. Medically, there is recognition that ALS patients tend to have higher glucose metabolism. This may be in part due to the increased effort required to function in the presence of worsening motor function. Regardless, higher amounts of glucose have also been associated with better outcomes and delayed problems in ALS patients. Thus, the medical field may soon consider this a normal aspect of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments.

Future Directions in Relieving ALS Disease Symptoms

Understandably, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments cited are not curative by any means. There are serious investigations to identify the cause of ALS and its prevention. However, opportunities to diagnose ALS earlier offers some potential to improve outcomes as well. In this regard, the University of Illinois in Chicago researchers recently discovered unique characteristics of spinal cord neurons in ALS patients. These findings might serve as biomarkers that could be used for ALS screening in the future.

Certainly, ALS disease symptoms are devastating, and the rapid progression of the disease heart-breaking. With cognitive abilities intact, these patients suffer tremendous loss of motor function while being perfectly aware of the decline. Understanding this, investigations into new Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis treatments are essential. And hopefully, new options will soon be available to greatly improve ALS disease symptoms if not prevent it altogether.

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