Currently, there are no effective therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which is a paralyzing neurogenerative disorder – but a new discovery by scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine could change all of that.

For the first time, they have been able to pinpoint the underlying disease process of all forms of ALS , also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

According to the findings, published in the journal Nature, the basis of the disorder is “a broken down protein recycling system in the neurons of the spinal cord and the brain.”

This breakdown happens in all forms of ALS and a chemical called ubiquilin2 is to blame. If this chemical does not work, the bad parts of the protein build up, which means the cell can’t repair or maintain itself and becomes severely damaged.

Researchers are hopeful this discovery will help them open up “a whole need field for finding an effective treatment” for this devastating disorder.

“We can now test for drugs that would regulate this protein pathway or optimize it, so it functions as it should in a normal state," Dr. Teepu Siddique, a professor of neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago, said in a news release.

About 350,000 people around the world have ALS, including children and adults, with about 50 percent of people dying within three years of the onset of the disease.

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