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Veterans at twice the risk for ALS

Researchers continue search for possible links

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MIRAMAR, Fla. – Former military veteran John Hartwell never imagined that serving his country could put him at greater risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

The disease progressively paralyzes its victims, attacking nerve cells and pathways in the brain or spinal cord.

"Basically, from my initial diagnosis, it was like being given a death sentence and not being able to appeal it," Hartwell said.

Dr. Ashook Verma, medical director of the ALS Center at the University of Miami, said the link between ALS and military veterans remains a mystery.

"We don't know what the cause is, what the mechanism is, and what is the link that doubles as time goes by," Verma said.

That is why he and others in the medical community are pushing for more funding toward research.

"It really needs to have a bigger effort, something like the Manhattan Project, in order to have an ALS cure," he said.

Hartwell's form of the disease is slow in its progression, and he is hoping clinical trials currently underway around the globe will provide a breakthrough for him, and for others suffering from ALS.

"There's so much research in so many countries, I just hope to be around for it to have some effect on me," Hartwell said.

A Battle of the Bands fundraising effort is scheduled for Saturday, November 9, from 5 to 10 p.m. at Lauderdale Brewery, 5 SE 14th Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.