ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

According to the ALS Association, approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time, approximately 300 in San Diego County alone.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurodegenerative disease without a cure or effective treatments.

ALS is characterized by a progressive degeneration of motor nerve cells in the brain (upper motor neurons) and spinal cord (lower motor neurons). When the motor neurons can no longer send impulses to the muscles, the muscles begin to waste away (atrophy), causing muscle weakness.

Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, and often twitch as they waste away. Eventually the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost.

Individuals with ALS lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, individuals lose the ability to breathe without a ventilator.

The cause of ALS is not known, and scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some people and not others. ALS is often referred to as a syndrome because the disease becomes apparent in various patterns. ALS occurs rarely as an inherited disease. 

Providing Comprehensive Treatment, Finding a Cure

The UC San Diego Center for ALS Research and Therapy is San Diego’s most comprehensive care program for patients with ALS.

Our team represents many disciplines and serves patients with ALS from diagnosis through treatment – providing for the whole-patient needs of people with ALS and their families.

The center includes scientists and clinicians who collaborate to identify the causes of ALS, and the mechanisms that lead to premature death of motor neurons during disease progress. They devise and test potential treatments, and conduct innovative clinical trials.

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Watch a video with Physician John Ravits about ALS treatment at UCSD.