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Test Might Help Predict Survival With Lou Gehrig's

Study findings may also help researchers test new ALS drugs, researchers suggest
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Simple blood tests may one day help predict survival and the course of the disease in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease, Italian researchers report.

The components in the blood that might yield clues to how fast ALS is progressing are called albumin and creatinine. These components are normally tested to follow kidney and liver health, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

But now it appears that these substances may be helpful for gauging the health of people with ALS, the new study suggests.

"The assessment of albumin and creatinine in the blood can reliably predict the prognosis of ALS at the time of diagnosis," said lead researcher Dr. Adriano Chio, a professor of neurology in the Rita Levi Montalcini department of neuroscience at the University of Torino.

The average survival of ALS patients is just one to three years after the diagnosis, according to background information in the study. Finding a simple way to predict progression of the disease might help doctors treat patients and help researchers evaluate new drugs, the study authors suggested.

"Currently, clinical trials rely on two main outcomes: survival, which is considered too rough and is largely biased by the different clinical practice of ALS centers; and the ALS functional scale, which has several limitations and is at least partly subjective. Researchers are actively looking for more objective [ways to predict] progression," Chio said.

Levels of albumin and creatinine might become a neurologist's tool for predicting patients' prognosis early in the disease, he said.

"In the research arena, albumin and creatinine could be used as [a way to track] disease progression in clinical trials for the discovery of new effective drugs for ALS," Chio added.

The report was published online July 21 in JAMA Neurology.

Dr. Ronald Kanner is chair of neurology at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Manhasset, N.Y. He said the course of the disease is extremely variable. "Some patients succumb within a year and others progress very slowly, with 5 percent still alive after 20 years," Kanner said.

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