ALS Consortium of Epidemiologic Studies (ACES)

Environmental Risk Factors

ALS most likely results from a complex interplay between environmental factors and susceptibility genes, thus ALS researchers face the challenges common to elucidating the causes of any complex disease. Many hypotheses for pathogenic mechanisms underlying the selective death of motor neurons in ALS have been proposed, including excitotoxicity, oxidative damage, abnormal protein accumulation, mitochondrial damage, inflammation, inadequate neurotrophic factors and apoptosis (programmed cell death). Similar mechanisms have been proposed for other adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, however, these pathogenic processes may reflect downstream events after an initial environmental event initiates the process. The specificity of the neurodegenerative process for motor neurons may be initiated by environmental toxicant exposure. In this section, brief summaries are presented of the epidemiologic evidence regarding the possible associations of environmental agents with sporadic ALS.

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