Elizabeth Khludenev '23
NCS’s ALS Club plans many exciting activities this Spring! First of all, do you recognize the two people in the pictures and how they relate to the three letters “ALS”? Let me do some explaining.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—sounds like a mouthful, right? ALS is a disease that causes a person to slowly lose their muscles’ ability to contract. This disease starts with difficulty to walk and move one’s arms and legs, progressing to the inability to speak, swallow, and eventually breathe. In the human body, these functions are accomplished with the help of different types of muscles. However, if a muscle does not receive a signal, or impulse, “to move” from the nervous system, it cannot do so. Cells within the nervous system which are called “neurons” receive impulses from other cells and transmit them to different parts of the body, including muscles. Neurons that transmit impulses to muscles are called motor neurons. ALS affects motor neurons and makes them dysfunctional leading to the inability of the muscles to work properly.
The name “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis” reflects the intricacy of the damaging changes that can occur in the human body when someone develops this disease. The word “amyotrophic” comes from Greek and means “no nourishment to muscles”, the word “lateral” means “to the side”, the word “sclerosis” means “hardened” and reflects the loss of muscular flexibility and hardening of the muscles which occurs with this disease. Aside from ALS, some people call this condition “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” as it was named after a famous New York Yankee baseball player who was diagnosed with it. And that’s the person in the first picture! The person in the second picture is Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot who was a physician that first described ALS in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, ALS affects up to 15,000 Americans today and has no cure. Although much research has been done, more research and new discoveries are desperately needed to find treatments and cures for ALS and other diseases of the nervous system which cause neuronal degeneration.
A few months ago, in December 2021, the United States Congress passed a new law called “ACT for ALS”. It was a huge win for the ALS community! This law supports research and establishes grant programs and public-private partnerships to develop disease data collections, conduct research, and find new treatments for ALS along with other neurodegenerative diseases. To fund these initiatives, Congress authorized $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars) every year for the next 5 years!
Now that you know all these exciting facts, come participate in our Club activities this Spring! I, as the Club’s Chief Scientific Officer, and my fellow co-founders Helen Prince and Retta Nash have so much in store for the Club! Our ultimate Club goal is to raise money and spread awareness about ALS to help find new treatments and improve the quality of life of people living with ALS. Get ready for more bake sales, information sessions, and industry-renowned speakers like the Vice President of the ALS Association!!! Look out for more information and events coming soon via email!