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Lou Gehrig Disease Gene Identified

October 7, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) _ Scientists have identified a second defective gene that causes a rare inherited form of Lou Gehrig disease. That could help them learn about the more common, non-inherited form.

The disease, formally called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, causes a lethal progressive paralysis. It typically appears in adulthood and kills within three to five years of diagnosis. About 90 percent of cases are sporadic, with no apparent pattern of inheritance.

In 1993, scientists identified a gene causing one inherited form. Now, in the October issue of the journal Nature Genetics, two teams of researchers report a second gene for so-called familial ALS.

One research team was based at Northwestern University in Chicago, and the second at Tokai University in Kanagawa, Japan. The scientists found the gene in families from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

In an accompanying editorial, Pamela Shaw of the University of Sheffield in England called the finding important but said its relevance for common ALS is not yet clear.

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