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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive, fatal neurological disease affecting as many as 20,000 Americans with 5,000 new cases occurring in the United States each year. The disorder belongs to a class of disorders known as motor neuron diseases. ALS occurs when specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary movement gradually degenerate. The loss of these motor neurons causes the muscles under their control to weaken and waste away, leading to paralysis. ALS manifests itself in different ways, depending on which muscles weaken first. Symptoms may include tripping and falling, loss of motor control in hands and arms, difficulty speaking, swallowing and/or breathing, persistent fatigue, and twitching and cramping, sometimes quite severely. ALS strikes in mid-life. Men are about one-and-a-half times more likely to have the disease as women.
There is no cure for ALS; nor is there a proven therapy that will prevent or reverse the course of the disorder. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved riluzole, the first drug that has been shown to prolong the survival of ALS patients. Patients may also receive supportive treatments that address some of their symptoms. ALS is usually fatal within five years after diagnosis.
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Antibody: A type of serum protein (globulin) synthesized by white blood cells of the lymphoid type in response to an antigenic (foreign substance) stimulus. Antibodies are complex substances formed to neutralize or destroy these antigens in the blood. Antibody activity normally fights infection but can be damaging in allergies and a group of diseases that are called autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune Disease: One of a large group of diseases in which the immune system turns against the body's own cells, tissues and organs, leading to chronic and often deadly conditions. Examples include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Bright's disease and diabetes.
Calcium: The body's most abundant mineral. Its primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. Calcium is also important to heart health, nerves, muscles and skin. Calcium helps control blood acid-alkaline balance, plays a role in cell division, muscle growth and iron utilization, activates certain enzymes, and helps transport nutrients through cell membranes. Calcium also forms a cellular cement called ground substance that helps hold cells and tissues together.
FDA: The (American) Food and Drug Administration. It is the official government agency that is responsible for ensuring that what we put into our bodies - particularly food and drugs - is safe and effective.
Monosodium Glutamate: (MSG) Used as a flavor enhancer and preservative in many foods, especially Asian (Chinese). Once banned, it is now permitted in small amounts because no health risks have been found in older children and adults.