Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) are a class of hypertension drugs commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure, and a new study finds the drug can also combat ALS.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, atttacks neurons within the brain, cerebrum and spinal cord. As the disease progresses, the victim starts to lose control over their body functions, until the lungs and heart fail, leading to the death of the individual.

Feng-Cheng Lin of the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan led the study, examining the possibility of reversing brain damage through the use of ACEI's. The team examined records from the Taiwanese National Health Insurance (NHI) database, which included 729 subjects who received an ALS diagnosis between the years 2002 and 2008. Records from an additional 14,580 people who did not suffer from the disease were used as a control group in the study. They found that patients who were prescribed ACEI's were between 17 and 57 percent less likely to develop ALS than those who did not take the medicine. As dosages of the drug increased, the chance of developing ALS was reduced, the study found.

The process by which the medicine works is uncertain, but researchers theorize ACEI's may act by reducing the actions of glutamate receptors within the brain, providing healthy vitamin E levels, and reducing inflammation and the damaging effects of oxygen.

An earlier study showed that one form of ACEI called temocapril is able to repair damaged neurons in the human brain, potentially reversing the effects of Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's.

About 5,600 Americans are diagnosed with ALS each year, and those stricken with the disease tend to live between two and five years after diagnosis. At any given time, around 30,000 people in the United States are living with the effects of the illness.

Riluzole is currently the most commonly-prescribed drug used to treat ALS, although it can not cure the disease.

Lou Gehrig was a legendary baseball player who played for the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1939, when he was diagnosed with ALS. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, and was the first player to have his number retired. On July 4, 1939, Gehrig made history by delivering a speech at Yankee Stadium, in which he referred to himself as "The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth." He died of the disease, now named after him, in 1941.

Investigation of the role ACEI's could play in reversing the effects of ALS was detailed in the journal JAMA Neurology, published by the American Medical Association.

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