Progress in Lou Gehrig's Disease

ALS Mice Live 25% Longer With New Cocktail Treatment

From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 24, 2003 -- A common antibiotic and a common dietary supplement prolong life in mice genetically engineered to die of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Lots of things go wrong in the bodies of people with Lou Gehrig's disease, known to doctors as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. A mixture of different treatments -- working in different ways -- likely will be needed to slow its fatal progress. Now researchers say they've found the cocktail's first two ingredients.

A team of researchers led by Robert M. Friedlander, MD, at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital showed in earlier studies that the antibiotic minocycline helps fight several brain diseases -- including ALS. Meanwhile, another group showed that the dietary supplement creatine also helps fight these kinds of diseases.

"We combined the two and showed that together they are both more effective than either alone in the treatment of ALS," Friedlander says in a news release.

Named after the baseball star whose life it claimed in his prime, Lou Gehrig's disease is a rapidly debilitating and fatal disease. It strikes about 5,000 U.S. residents each year. Once symptoms begin, a person with ALS lives only three to five years. The only current treatment is a drug called riluzole. It extends survival by about three months.

Friedlander's team gave the minocycline/creatine cocktail to mice genetically engineered to develop ALS. The treatment delayed disease onset. And once symptoms did appear, the mice lived 25% longer than untreated animals.

Since both minocycline and creatine already are used in people, clinical trials should soon show whether this combined treatment helps them. And if two compounds are good, three or more might be better. The search is on for new ingredients for an even better ALS cocktail.