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Scientists Find A Way To Slow Lou Gehrig’s Disease

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Aired 10/21/09

San Diego researchers have found a way to slow the damage done by Lou Gehrig's Disease.

— San Diego researchers have found a way to slow the damage done by Lou Gehrig's Disease.

The disease causes neurons in the body to degenerate, which leads to paralysis and death. People who get the disease typically die within five years. But scientists at UCSD and Scripps Research Institute have identified an enzyme that can bind with motor neurons to slow their degeneration. Don Cleveland with UCSD Medical School says tests in lab mice show this enzyme therapy would only add a year or two to the life of a person with Lou Gehrig's disease. But he says this could be just the beginning.

"It tells us that we can have a real effect," he said. "It's a step forward, and there are several steps to go."

Cleveland says the next steps include learning whether different applications of the enzyme might make its effect more potent. Other researchers are trying to reprogram stem cells to replace the motor neurons that are destroyed by Lou Gehrig's disease.

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