Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Jean-Marie Charcot was the first to recognize ALS as a distinct neurological disease with its own unique pathology. In ALS, nerve cells degenerate and deteriorate, and are unable to transmit messages to muscles. In around 90% of the cases of ALS, the cause remains unknown. Studies have concentrated on the responsibility of glutamate in motor neuron degeneration. Glutamate is one of several neurotransmitters in the brain. While there is no known cure for ALS, strides in medicine have allowed for the development of a wide variety of medications to treat the various symptoms of ALS, as well as dietary, physical therapy, and breathing techniques, all of which can lessen symptoms and increase life expectancy.
Description of ALS
“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” (“Farewell”, n.d.) These were the words on Henry Louis Gehrig on July 4th, 1939 at Yankee Stadium. For most of his life, Lou Gehrig had been just that…lucky. Gehrig was a baseball superstar. He had appeared in 7 all-star games and won 6 World Series titles (“All-Star Game”, n.d; “Lou Gehrig”, n.d.). His record of streak of 2130 consecutive games played had earned him the nickname, “the iron horse”. However, it is not for these accomplishments that Gehrig is most known. Gehrig is most known for the disease that took his career, his life, and finally, his name.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement (Dugdale, Koch, and Zieve 2010). In ALS, nerve cells degenerate and deteriorate, and are unable to transmit messages to muscles. This degeneration and deterioration ultimately gives rise to muscle weakening, twitching, and a lack of ability to shift the arms, legs, and body. The predicament of the patient gradually declines. Once the disease progresses to the stage where muscles in the chest area stop working, it grows increasing difficult or nearly impossible to breath.
History of ALS
Jean-Marie Charcot was the first to recognize ALS as a distinct neurological disease with its own unique pathology (Kumar, Aslinia, Yale, and Mazza 2011). Studies conducted from 1865 to 1869 by Charcot and his colleague Joffroy found that lesions in the interior of the lateral column in the spinal cord gave rise to chronic progressive paralysis and contractures (no atrophy of muscles), while lesions of the anterior horn of the spinal cord resulted in paralysis devoid of contractures (with atrophy of muscles). These discoveries reinforced Charcot’s hypothesis, at the time, was that the motor component of the spinal cord contained a two-part system, and that the location of the lesion results in a varying clinical presentation. Charcot did not propose the term “amyotrophic lateral...