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ALS registry could help find environmental risk factors for disease

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:52 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 7:34 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A single question plagued Dustin Keelty long after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease: Why me?

The Milton man wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, though no one would have blamed him. Rather, Keelty wanted to know what cosmic forces had combined to give him the rare, incurable and fatal illness.

Scientists have long puzzled over this question, troubled by the knowledge that about 90 percent of ALS cases — including Keelty’s — have no genetic explanation. Researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical center have been particularly interested in a potential link between the fatal disease and cyanobacteria, the cause of those stinky algae blooms that strike some Vermont lakes each year.

A bill before the state legislature could help identify patterns by mandating that health care providers report ALS diagnoses to a central registry.

Cat Viglienzoni spoke with Seven Days’ Colin Flanders, who reported on the story in this week’s issue.

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