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Neuromuscular Diseases

Neuromuscular Disorders

While much of neurology focuses on disorders of the brain, a large number of diseases affect the peripheral nerves and muscles.  Our neuromuscular disease specialists have fellowship training and extensive experience treating the specific disorders of nerve and muscle, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease), peripheral neuropathies, Guillain Barre Syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy (CIDP), myasthenia gravis, myopathies and muscular dystrophies. They are also trained to perform specialized testing of the nerves and muscles including electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies (NCS) and autonomic nervous system testing (ANS).

ALS Clinic and Research Program

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disorder of the motor neurons that control our muscles. The condition is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous New York Yankees baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 1939. The disorder is characterized by rapidly progressive weakness and wasting of the muscles, spasticity, trouble swallowing and talking, and respiratory compromise. ALS is a progressive and ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disease, but the course is variable and both longevity and quality of life are dependent on the quality of care. In addition, basic science, clinical and translational research programs are actively searching for new therapies to slow or halt the progression of the disease.

The UAMS MDA/ALS multidisciplinary ALS clinic specializes in the evaluation and care of patients with ALS, primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), progressive bulbar palsy, and progressive muscular atrophy (PMA).

Most of the advances in longevity and improved quality of life for persons with ALS have come from improvements in symptomatic and supportive care. Our multidisciplinary clinic is designed to address all of the needs of ALS patients and family, and to provide a supportive environment. Instead of having patients travel around the campus to see various subspecialists and support services, our clinic allows those services to come to the patient. The clinic visit day may be lengthy, since the patient may be evaluated by a respiratory therapist, dietician, seating specialist and others in addition to the neurologist.

For new patient evaluations, contact the UAMS appointment center at (501) 686-8000, or request a referral from your primary care physician.

ALS Research

Clinical Research Trials

Only one FDA-approved medication, riluzole, has been demonstrated to slow the progress of ALS. We and many other ALS centers are actively involved in research to find new medications and therapies to treat ALS and its symptoms. Our ALS Clinic and Research Center participates in the Northeast ALS Consortium which has organized a number of clinical trials of new medications for ALS. Other studies may involve gathering and analyzing clinical information about you or the disease, or other kinds of interventions. We offer patients the opportunity to participate in these clinical trials when they meet the enrollment criteria for that particular study. Participation in any trial is entirely voluntary. You may decide not to participate or to withdraw at any time without losing the benefits of your standard medical care.

Basic and Translational ALS Research

UAMS is home to world class ALS research within the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Science, both in the College of Medicine. These efforts have been supported by local and NIH research grants as well as philanthropic contributions from many generous donors throughout the state of Arkansas.

Dr. John P. Crow, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, leads a group of investigators in a one-of-a-kind translational research effort designed to find drug “cocktails” that are effective in slowing or halting the progression of this devastating disease, using a mutant mouse that model human ALS. The idea is to examine combinations of FDA-approved drugs and so-called nutraceuticals to find combinations that produce additive therapeutic benefits. Nutraceuticals are compounds derived from foods, spices and herbs that have drug-like effects when given in pure form at higher doses. Dr. Crow’s group is testing up to 80 different agents and combinations per year. Crow’s research is supported by the J. Thomas May ALS Research Center, which he serves as director.

Dr. Mahmood Kiaei, Assistant Professor of Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Science, was recently recruited to UAMS. His research program delves into the basic science of neurodegeneration, with the goal of understanding the mechanism(s) of motor neuron degeneration in ALS. Oxidative stress and inflammation are likely important in the pathogenesis of ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. These studies hope to identify new molecular targets for development of effective treatments for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.

ALS Patient and Caregiver Information

Understanding the problems commonly faced by ALS patients can help provide guidance and reassurance to patients and their families. We offer educational materials to all patients seen at our Center. Each patient receives a binder that includes information on:

Respiratory Care
How ALS Affects Speech
Augmentative Communication
Home Modification
Nutrition
Managing Constipation
Advance Directives

In addition, publications from MDA are available, as well as a lending library that contains both books and videos.

Make a Donation

Memorial and Honor Gifts

An honor or memorial gift to UAMS to support ALS care and research is a special way to remember a friend or family member. The honoree or deceased’s family member will receive an acknowledgement card. The amount is not disclosed on the card. Please provide the name and address of the person you are honoring and the person to whom we should send the acknowledgment card. You will receive a receipt for your tax-deductible contribution.

Donations can be sent to:

UAMS Foundation – ALS Research
Attention: Michael Legate
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
4301 W. Markham #500
Little Rock, AR 72205