ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
This week marks Brain Awareness Week, with events worldwide to bring people up to speed on brain research. I went to the cool search tool on the Dana Foundation web site and found that several CIRM grantees are hosting events this week. That makes sense, given that roughly a quarter of our funding goes to neuronal diseases. (You can see charts of CIRM stem cell research funding allocations here.
At CIRM we want nothing more than to find cures for the diseases that afflict people around the world. Until that day comes, many of the diseases we hope to cure - Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, ALS, to name a few - place an incredible burden on the caregivers in addition to the patients themselves.
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences have grown embryonic stem cells into the motor neurons and support cells that underlie amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gherig's Disease, ALS has no cure and no effective treatment. In this disease, the motor neurons slowly degenerate leaving a person paralyzed. Why the neurons die is not known, however the support cells called astrocytes have long appeared to play a role.