It's nice to read the news these days and come across something even remotely positive. Amid talk of a double-dip recession, stubbornly high joblessness rates and the latest partisan sniping in Washington and on the campaign trail, an optimistic story is most welcome.
In the past month, such encouraging news has come from the medical research front. Just last week, researchers based out of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago reported that they had discovered the common mechanism at work in all forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, best known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. In these patients, the body's muscles gradually deteriorate, leading to disability, paralysis and, ultimately, death. The disease is estimated to affect about 350,000 patients worldwide.
According to the research team, the basis of the disorder is a failed protein recycling system in the neurons of the spinal cord and the brain. Normal functioning of the neurons requires efficient recycling of proteins critical to cell development. In ALS patients, because the system is broken, cells can't stay healthy or repair themselves, having a cascading effect.