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ALS Worldwide
January 07, 2015

Causes of ALS/MND

The causes of the vast majority of ALS/MND cases are still unknown, although genetic factors are widely believed to contribute to disease susceptibility and perhaps to its time of onset and severity. Researchers theorize that some individuals may be genetically predisposed to developing the disease, but only do so after coming in contact with an environmental or other trigger. Many neurologists and neuroscientists now believe that ALS may very well be a syndrome, a group of diseases that share similar symptoms. 

Although the majority of ALS/MND cases are sporadic, meaning there is no family history of the disease, about 5 to 10 percent of cases are familial, meaning the disease runs in the family. A common misconception is that only familial ALS/MND is "genetic." Actually, both familial and sporadic ALS/MND can stem from genetic causes. And some people who have a diagnosis of sporadic ALS/MND may carry genetic mutations that can be passed on to offspring.

Depending on the reference you consult, there presently appear to be at least 9, and possibly as many as 21, genes that can develop mutations causing ALS/MND, plus several others that modify ALS/MND risk or progression. Other possible causes of sporadic ALS include mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, defective axonal transport, protein misfolding, glutamate toxicity, abnormalities of the immune system, and toxic exposures.