Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or motor neuron disease (MND) shares with other neurodegenetrative disorders of the aging nervous system a polygenic, multifactorial aetiology. Less than 10% are familial and these too probably are associated with several interactive genes. The onset of ALS predates development of clinical symptoms by an unknown interval which may extend several years. The cause of neurodegeneration remains unknown but a common end-point is protein misfolding which in turn causes cell function failure. The complex nature of ALS has hindered therapeutic advances. In recent years longer survival is attributable largely to institution of non-invasive ventilation with BiPAP and timely implementation of percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding. Symptomatic treatment has advanced improving quality of life. Several encouraging avenues of therapy for ALS are beginning to be emerge raising hope for real benefit. They include protective autoimmunity, vaccines against misfolded protein epitopes and other deleterious species, new drug delivery systems employing nanotechnology and the potential of stem cell therapy.
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