There is a family of diseases with two things in common – they involve the death of nerve cells over time and they have no known cure. They are called neurodegenerative diseases.
Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and Huntington's are a few of the more universally known ones.
What they have in common is the progressive loss of structure, function or death of nerve cells - called neurons. Neurons are the building blocks of your brain and spinal cord. The body cannot replace or reproduce them, so once they are damaged, they are lost.
Drugs and treatments are available to provide palliative care. Some may slow the progression or relieve or minimize symptoms such as shaking or pain. As these diseases progress, often over the course of years, they become debilitating and lead to the eventual end of someone's life.
Sadly, at this time there is no known cure for any of the diseases in this family.
The only hope lies in fully understanding the mechanism of these diseases on the sub-cellular level and the neuron circuitry of our bodies on a system-wide level.
Celebrities have brought light to this terrible and tragic condition to help move research forward. These include Stephen Hawking, Michael J. Fox, Neil Diamond, Muhammad Ali, and Janet Reno. Many of them have used their celebrity to increase awareness and thereby encourage hope for the future.
- Kiaei, Mahmoud. New Hopes and Challenges for Treatment. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 2013.
- Neurodegeneration. Wikipedia.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ALS Fact Sheet. www.ninds.nih.gov.