The short answer is: We don’t know.
Science doesn’t completely understand what causes ALS, but we’re working tirelessly to learn more. A global network of researchers is currently investigating how a patient’s genes and environment can influence their likelihood to develop ALS, and to find treatments that can improve the quality of life for ALS patients.
Over the past ten years, there have been unprecedented advancements in the research of treatments and a cure for ALS, but we are still not there yet. Researchers have identified some new ideas about what may cause ALS, many of which involve genetic mutations. In 1993, the discovery of the SOD1 gene, or “the ALS gene,” helped scientists discover a genetic link to the development of familial ALS. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 12 genetic mutations that could cause a person to develop ALS have since been discovered. So far, scientists have identified more than 60% of the genes that cause familial ALS.
In 2011, researchers found a genetic link between ALS and frontotemporal dementia, or FTD. Many patients with ALS share a genetic mutation on the C9orf72 gene with people who have developed FTD. This research demonstrated a genetic link between the two disorders, and has led many researchers to believe that the two diseases may be related.
There is still much research to be done to find the causes, treatments, and a potential cure for ALS. The ALS Association has committed $99 million in research funding to increase the number of scientists who are studying ALS across the globe. Find out more about ALS research and how The ALS Association is helping here.
If you are an ALS patient, you can help researchers learn more about ALS by joining the National ALS Registry, and participating in clinical trials. Even if the trial doesn’t result in an effective treatment, every bit of information we can learn about ALS will help researchers get closer to a cure.
There are a number of questions that remain unanswered for people with ALS, which makes research into its causes, treatments, and possible cure incredibly important. Until then, every donation helps us get closer to a cure and care for the patients who need help now.