What is ALS? - ALS Malta

What is ALS?

ALS is called Lou Gehrig's disease, after the baseball player diagnosed with it.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. ALS is the most popular type of Motor Neuron Diseases.

Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.

A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. "A" means no. "Myo" refers to muscle, and "Trophic" means nourishment – "No muscle nourishment." When a muscle has no nourishment, it "atrophies" or wastes away. "Lateral" identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening ("sclerosis") in the region.

The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. The motor nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle control.

The average life expectancy after diagnosis is 2 to 5 years.



The familial form of ALS usually only requires one parent to carry the disease-causing gene.

50 Yr.

Stephen Hawking

The famous psychist, lived for more than 50 years after he was diagnosed.

4 Yrs


On June 1, 2021, a team of scientists discovered a form of genetic ALS that affects children aged as young as 4.



About 25 to 40 percent of all familial cases are caused by a defect in the C9ORF72 gene

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