Incurable muscle disease
ALS can strike anyone. The Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, the Russian composer Dimitri Sjostakowitz, the legendary New York Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig, and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking have all been afflicted with ALS. In addition, an unusually large number of top Italian soccer players, airline pilots, and soldiers from the Golf war have been stricken by this fatal disease. About half of them die within three years - some even in the first year - usually as a consequence of asphyxiation, while still 'in full possession of their faculties'.
In a patient with ALS, the nerve bundles that run to the muscles deteriorate. The patient then loses control over his muscles, progressively becoming totally paralyzed, while remaining - disconcertingly - mentally sound. The causative mechanism of this grave, debilitating disease - which has an enormous medico-social impact - remains obscure. At present, the disease is totally untreatable. The consequence is that many ALS patients elect for euthanasia, a very controversial solution. Genetic r
Contact: Sooike Stoops
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology