Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (aka ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a devastating disease that is nearly always fatal within 5 years of onset. The symptoms are similar to many other neuropathies beginning with weakening of the limbs, leading to partial or total paralysis and an increasing difficulty in breathing. Due to similarities in their symptomatic progression can be difficult to differentiate ALS from several other disease mimics (motor neuropathy, progressive muscle atrophy, etc.) until it is too late for intervention to have any real effect. With an earlier diagnosis, and therefore earlier treatment, current clinical care may significantly increase the lifespan of these patients. Additional drug therapies that are likely to be introduced to the market could be more rapidly initiated if patients are rapidly diagnosed. Not only might life expectancy increase, but patients would be given the chance for a higher quality of life for a longer duration due to more rapid inclusion of the patient into multi-disciplinary care treatment offered at specialized ALS clinics.
The incidence of ALS is approximately 6,000 cases per year in the US and nearly 120,000 globally*. Progression is rapid with ~50% of individuals dying within 18 months and over 75% dying within 5 years; ALS is responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths annually. ALS usually strikes those over 50 years of age and has a slightly higher prevalence in men than in women. People of all races, age groups, ethnicities and geographic locations are susceptible to the disease, though Caucasians are more likely to present with ALS than any other group.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can be a challenging disease to diagnose. Prior to the groundbreaking test developed by the researchers at Iron Horse Diagnostics, there was no single test used in diagnosing ALS. Instead, the diagnostic process is by ruling out other diseases that mimic ALS by using a combination of clinical exams and a series of tests. The current comprehensive clinical testing process may include the following procedures:
- Neurologic exam and nerve conduction study to determine nerve damage or muscular diseases.
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests to evaluate the electrical activity of your muscles.
- Spinal tap of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord to rule out other diseases.
- X-Rays, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to spot tumors, herniated disks or other conditions.
- Blood and urine studies including thyroid and parathyroid hormone levels, urine heavy metal tests, and high-resolution serum protein electrophoresis to eliminate other possible causes of symptoms.
- Muscle and nerve biopsy to determine if there is a muscle disease rather than ALS.
The Iron Horse Diagnostics ALS test now supports comprehensive clinical diagnosis with a rapid and reliable test. The biomarker-based test is the first in clinical use that can effectively provide an ALS diagnosis in a matter of days, rather than the many months to year-long timeframe necessary to rule out the many diseases that mimic ALS. Through blood or cerebrospinal fluid tests, Iron Horse Diagnostics’ test can provide the patient with reliable results to begin earlier treatment for greater longevity and quality of life.