LOU GHERIG’S DISEASE
Remember Lou Gherig, the baseball player?
He got very sick.
He couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand up. Eventually, he couldn’t even swallow. Gherig never got over it. And he died from the disease which is now called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. In the US it’s also called Lou Gherig’s disease in honor of a great guy who got a tough break.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis attacks the motor neurons in the body. The most common form of it shows up in the extremeties – the arms and legs – first. Most people succumb to the disease in less than five years.
Physicist Stephen Hawking has had ALS for about forty years. In spite of being paralyzed, he has managed to leave his able bodied colleagues in the dust, physicswise. His story is an amazing one. However, no one doubts that Hawking would give up a bunch of his honors and awards to be able to scratch his ear.
A FLICKER OF HOPE
Eva Feldman, University of Michigan neurologist (also President of the American Neurological Association) conducted a small human trial using stem cells to treat ALS. The results were fantastic. The stem cells, which were implanted in one of several locations along the spine, slowed the progress of the disease for some of the patients. Slowed, in this case, meant “no significant disease progression” for the entire two year study. That’s like halted, right? One of the participants put away his cane and took part in a two and a half mile walkathon.
Nine other patients with more advanced disease didn’t do so good. No significant benefit. Since the phase 1 human trial kept a strict lid on the allowed doseage, the real surprise is that so many patients did so well. The phase 2 trial (starting soon) allows a much bigger dose.
MISTER ScienceAintSoBad is excited about this. Stephen Hawking could use a little good news. I think , maybe, that will happen soon.
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