Skip to content

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Genetic Mutation Tied to ALS

Mutation May Make Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's Disease, More Likely
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 22, 2007 -- New research ties amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease, to a certain gene mutation.

That news comes from researchers including Travis Dunckley, PhD, of the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.

ALS is an incurable, progressive degenerative neurological disorder. For reasons that are not understood, the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement gradually deteriorate in ALS. As a result, muscles waste away, leading to paralysis and death, usually in two to five years.

Dunckley and colleagues compared the DNA of 386 ALS patients with the DNA of 542 people without ALS.

The ALS patients were 35% more likely than people without ALS to have variations near a gene called FLJ10986. Scientists don't know much about what that gene does.

Dunckley's team also noticed 50 other genetic variations that were associated with ALS, but to a lesser degree than variations near the FLJ10986 gene.

The study doesn't prove that those gene variations cause ALS. So far, gene studies "raise more questions than they answer," writes Richard Orrell, MD, in an editorial published with the study in tomorrow's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Orrell works at the Institute of Neurology at University College London.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix