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Updated Feb 5, 2014 - 6:30 am

ALS center opens at Barrow Neurological Institute

PHOENIX — The Valley is home to a new clinic to help people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The Hall of Fame Baseball great died of the disease a few years after retiring from baseball in 1939.

“ALS is a disease that essentially causes progressive weakness in the arms and legs, as well as in the breathing muscles and swallowing muscles,” said Shafeeq Ladha, director of the Gregory W. Fulton ALS and Neuromuscular Disorders Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

“We don’t really know what causes ALS, and we really don’t have any treatment for it, but it results in death after about two to three years because of involvement of the respiratory and swallowing muscles,” Ladha said.

The new $4 million center has been open for about a month. It is named after Gregory W. Fulton, who died of ALS in 2011. Fulton was in his early 50s, and Ladha said that ALS usually attacks people around that age. Fulton’s parents, Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton, donated $2.7 million to help build the 32,000 square foot center. The facility is designed to help provide treatment for as many as 300 patients of ALS and other neuromuscular diseases.

It took four years to build the center, but Ladha said building the facility is only the beginning.

“The clinic itself right now is a building, but we want it to be filled with programs and activities that really serve these patients and work towards finding a treatment.”

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