Monday, April 19, 2004

Test for Lou Gehrig disease may be possible soon

For the first time, scientists have identified possible biological markers that appear to indicate the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig disease.

Eventually, these proteins may form the basis of a rapid test for ALS, Dr. Robert P. Bowser of the University of Pittsburgh told Reuters Health.

"Typically, making a diagnosis of ALS can take up to a year," Bowser explained. "We can do it in 1 day with essentially a drop of (spinal fluid)." Early diagnosis is important because the only FDA-approved agent for ALS provides the most benefit when taken soon after symptom onset.

Bowser's team looked for characteristic protein patterns in spinal fluid from 25 people recently diagnosed with ALS and from 35 "controls," some of whom had other nervous system diseases with symptoms similar to ALS such as muscle weakness and loss of motor function.

Bowser's team identified 10 spinal-fluid proteins that were different in ALS patients and non-ALS control subjects. This protein pattern identified 92 percent of actual ALS cases, Bowser said.

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