Published on June 28, 2004 at 9:53 AM
Tripping, stumbling, falling, slow, steady loss of muscle control and strength in hands and feet, difficulty speaking, swallowing and breathing...
The mind remains acute, alive with intellect and curiosity. Meanwhile, the body deteriorates, atrophies, but still the mind and soul speak. This is what it is like to live with ALS -- commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Sixty-three years after the death on June 2, 1941, of baseball legend Lou Gehrig of the progressively degenerative, invariably fatal disease, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School UMMS and CytRx Corporation are investigating RNAi (RNA interference) gene silencing. RNA can be described as the on/off switch and RNAi may be seen as a way to turn off killer genes to stop physical degeneration.
"Tiny snippets of RNA with two strands, instead of the usual one strand, can be used to 'shut off' specific genes. We hope that in gene silencing CytRx can find treatments-and even cures-for such fatal diseases as ALS," says Dr. Jack Barber, Scientific Director of CytRx Corporation.
CytRx Corporation is one of the first companies in the world to successfully eliminate the familial version of ALS in mice.
According to the ALS Association, in the U.S. alone, approximately 30,000 people are living with ALS and almost 6,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations estimates that more than 120,000 cases of ALS are diagnosed worldwide annually.
ALS acquired Gehrig's name from sports fans shocked to learn of Gehrig's illness and later death. He had been the Yankees first baseman during the late 20's through 1939. An American baseball legend, Gehrig holds the record for most career grand slams (23) and won a Triple Crown in 1934.