Giovedì, 18 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Borgonovo, symbol of Lou Gehrig's fight, dies

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, June 28 - The flag-bearer in Italian soccer's
campaign to explain the high rate of Lou Gehrig's Disease among
former players, ex-Fiorentina and AC Milan striker Stefano
Borgonovo, died of the incurable nerve-wasting condition at 49
Thursday.
"Ciao Stefano, hero", tweeted former Fiorentina teammate
and Italy great Roberto Baggio while the Azzurri's current star,
AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, tweeted "Your strength was a
life lesson" and ex-Juventus and Italy forward Alessandro Del
Piero called Borgonovo on his Web site "a great fighter who
loved soccer and life".
The Lou Gehrig death rate among ex-players in Italy is 12
times that of the general population.
Top anti-doping prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello has been
probing more than 40 deaths for 10 years.
Doping, other performance enhancers, repetitive head trauma
and pitch fertilizers have been touted as possible causes but
scientists have yet to pin down the origin of the disease, which
in Britain is called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a form
of Motor Neurone Disease.
There is no cure for ALS but Italian researchers said
earlier this week they may have made a breakthrough along the
path to finding one.
Borgonovo went public with his condition in 2008 and
re-energised efforts to solve the riddle, despite never blaming
his playing days for it.
"I want to find the new penicillin," he insisted.
Borgonovo repeatedly said the disease, which he called The
Bitch, "wasn't brought on or hastened by anything that happened
to me on the soccer pitch".
An all-star charity match between his two former clubs,
Fiorentina and Milan, helped set up a charity in Borgonovo's
name which established a research foundation with funding from
the Italian soccer federation.
Italy donned black arm bands in Borgonovo's honour for
their Confederations Cup semi-final against Spain Thursday
night, which ended in an 8-7 shoot-out defeat.
ALS is known as Lou Gehrig's Disease after the US baseball
legend who was the first sports star to die of it, aged 37, in
1941.
The first well-known Italian soccer player to die of ALS
was ex-Genoa captain Gianluca Signorini, who died in 2002 aged
42.
Ex-Chelsea boss and player Gianluca Vialli, a former
striker for Italy, Sampdoria and Juventus, has his own ALS
foundation with former Juventus and Napoli midfielder Massimo
Mauro, now a Sky Italy commentator.
Researchers around the world have been trying for 60 years
to find some way to attack ALS but there has not been any
significant progress.
However, an Italian team announced on Monday that they held
out high hopes from their groundbreaking stem-cell research.
Six patients suffering from ALS and other neurodegenerative
diseases involved in preliminary tests showed no adverse
reactions to stem cells grafted into their bone marrow, they
said.
"These are just the first steps. But we already have the
green light from the National Institutes of Health for the next
phase trials, which will involve six more patients and then six
more. After that, we can move on to demonstrating the therapy
can actually stop the disease," said chief researcher Angelo
Vescovi.
It was the first experiment in the world with this kind of
therapy, which involved using neural cells from miscarried
fetuses to produce unlimited quantities of stem cells.
"Vescovi's research is cutting-edge. If it is proven
effective, the Italian method could be the cure for these fatal
diseases," said Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.

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