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ALS Awareness Month

Depending on where you are from, May or June is ALS(Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Awareness Month in the United States and Canada. This is an opportunity to share information with your community about ALS disease. ALS disease is a neurodegenerative neuromuscular disease that results in the progressive loss of motor neurons that control voluntary muscles. People with ALS disease will watch themselves gradually becoming unable to move, unable to speak, unable to chew, and unable to breathe. In the end, most of the body will be out of their control, although they are conscious from beginning to end. Most people with ALS die between 2 to 4 years after the diagnosis. Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist, a cosmologist, and a writer, suffered from ALS and lived for 55 more years following his diagnosis, but this is a rare case. Even he, however, in old age, like most patients in the late stage, could only control an exceedingly small part of the muscles such as his eyeballs and cheek on his face. Thus, as a last resort of the communication, he used customized glasses, which has attached computer chip and track the movement of the eyes, to move the cursor at the computer screen with his eyes. Although today's technology does not require additional tools to achieve cursor control, the treatment of ALS disease is still at a loss.

However, we have small scientific research findings that show that there are relationships between calreticulin regulation and ALS disease. Calreticulin is an essential protein present in the endoplasmic reticulum of cells, can bind to calcium, and playing some vital nuclear functions that allow the body to regulate transcription of genes via this protein ability. In 2014, the Journal of Neuroscience published a paper supporting an emerging theory that abundant calcium makes neurons vulnerable. According to the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology in Marseille, France, calreticulin can cause motor neurons to succumb to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Neurons are information messengers that use electrical impulses and chemical signals to transmit information between different brain areas and muscles in our body. Our neurons rely on calcium to mediate between electrical and chemical signaling. The calcium signaling between the neurons helps communication between the cells in our body.

Unexpectedly, in ALS, only motor neurons degenerate and die. The discovery of calreticulin loss in ALS model cells and mice makes a new understanding of why specific motor neurons die in ALS. Researchers believe that designing a treatment to influence the calreticulin pathway in people could be tricky because Calcium homeostasis, calreticulin levels, and ER stress are such universal cellular components and processes. Pico Caroni of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland, noted that "Nevertheless, calreticulin regulation seems to provide a specific entry point." We should keep our eyes on to see if there are further academic findings and solutions in the future. Until then, our will to fight against ALS is our strongest weapon.

Reference:

Phoebe Hinton-Sheley, B., 2021. What is Calreticulin?. News-Medical.net. Available at: <https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Calreticulin.aspx>

HealthBuff. 2021. Memory - HealthBuff. Available at: <https://healthbuff.com/memory/

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