Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, became widely known in the late 1930’s when `star Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with the incurable, degenerative disease. Once the symptoms of muscle weakness, intense fatigue, and slurred speech appear, there is no treatment or course of action a patient can take to regain their strength. However, that does not stop Dr. Rick Bedlack, who is the Director of the ALS Clinic at Duke University. As reported on CNN, the positive, ambitious doctor is researching ways to stop ALS from taking people’s lives.
Dr. Bedlack started the clinic at Duke Medical School to improve lives and give hope to those diagnosed with ALS. By communicating with other doctors and clinics around the world, Dr. Bedlack attempts to find “ALS Reversals,” where patients see improvements with their symptoms, and he attempts to uncover why the patient is recovering. Of the 24 reversals he has come across, none are more significant than the case of Mike McDuff, a 64 year old man who is currently treated for ALS at Duke. By the time he was diagnosed, most of his motor skills had disappeared, so his wife made arrangements at a local cemetery where he was to be buried, and he ate his assumed last meals out of a feeding tube. In 2013 at the suggestion of one of his friends, McDuff started taking lunison, a drug suspected to slow the prognosis of ALS by getting rid of free radicals, molecules toxic to the human body. After three months of taking lunison, McDuff began to see significant results.
“I couldn’t put my finger on it … but I felt a little better,” said McDuff on CNN. “I felt more energy.”
Today, McDuff retains enough motor function to eat and speak normally. His story inspired Bedlock to implement a pilot program for lunison treatment in May of this year. Fifty subjects will follow the exact dosage that McDuff used in the 12-month-long study.
“We have to be very patient,” said McDuff on CNN. “I was one of the fortunate ones that it really helped, and I hope I can help other people, too.”
Dr. Bedlack hopes this study will pinpoint how lunison improves the symptoms of ALS patients and help researchers learn more about ALS in general.
Photo Courtesy: The ALS Association North Carolina Chapter