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University of Pittsburgh

About

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known in the U.S. as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that affects motor nerve cells (neurons) and results in relentlessly progressive muscle weakness. ALS is inherited (familial) in 5-10% of patients, and the majority have non-inherited (sporadic) ALS.

Although the cause of sporadic ALS is unknown and there is no cure yet, research on the disease is advancing at a rapid pace. There is one drug that does modify the disease course somewhat; other drugs are undergoing clinical trials; and, symptomatic treatments are available.

We are a designated MDA-ALS Center at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh because we offer multidisciplinary care and clinical research in ALS.  A multidisciplinary clinic, supported by MDA, allows patients to see multiple practitioners in one convenient setting and allows access to all available treatment, equipment, and counseling.  Patients are also encouraged to participate in clinical research.  This involvement may simply include enrolling in a database for epidemiology studies.  Others provide blood for DNA or biomarkers, spinal fluid for biomarkers, and skin for stem cells.  Patients may participate in clinical drug trials when they are available.  We all need to work together to find effective treatments for ALS and to improve quality of life.

We collaborate with researchers from the Live Like Lou Center for ALS Research in the Brain Institute and other investigators with common interests at the University of Pittsburgh.  Some of our patients also generously donate to our ALS Tissue Donation Program—a resource that collects and stores human brain and spinal cord tissue samples from ALS and control subjects for use in research activities within the University of Pittsburgh and throughout the country.