According to PubMed Health, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS, upper and lower motor neuron disease, or motor neuron disease has no known cause. PubMed Health explains that it “is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.” And that in ALS, “nerve cells (neurons) waste away or die, and can no longer send messages to muscles.” The web page goes on to describe the advancing problems that lead almost invariably to death. Stephen Hawking’s relatively long survival is a notable exception.
The key point is that motor neurons in the spine and brain die, and except for a small percentage of those who may have a genetic predisposition for the condition i.e. a family history of the disease, the cause is entirely unknown.
It seems reasonable to imagine that scientists working on this disease would be trying to determine the cause with an eye to preventing it.
I lost a close friend a few years ago to this condition and watched her decline slowly and surely. Prior to her death, I interviewed her for a local cable access television program and asked her how she felt about using animals in ALS related research. She was adamantly opposed to it and said it would be immoral to want others hurt and killed in research purported to be looking for a way to help her.
She would have been outraged by a recently re-approved protocol at the University of Wisconsin, Madison titled: Neural Stem Cells for Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It is protocol #G00515-0-09-09 for anyone who cares. It was re-approved on or about November 8, 2010.
The principal investigator’s (PI) name has been censored. The graduate school Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) first approved this use of mice and rats on November 23, 2009. The ACUC approved multiple surgeries on these animals including laminectomy (the surgical removal of bone to expose the spinal cord), spinal cord injury, “peripheral nerve crush,” ovariectomy, a cannula implant (anatomical location unstated), unspecified behavioral tests, blood collection, the creation of unspecified lesions, and eventual (thankfully) killing.
Earth to UW vivisectors: damaging the spine and crushing peripheral nerves will not explain why motor neurons die in the only species known to be afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It will pay your boat payment, but it won’t help people stricken or yet to be stricken with this malady.
Projects like this one should be considered in light of the university’s multiple and repeated USDA citations for failing to require researchers there to adequately demonstrate that they have looked for alternatives to painful or distressful procedures.