DURHAM -- Duke University announced Thursday a major medical breakthrough in the fight against ALS.

Doctors across the country have discovered one of many genes causing the deadly disease.

"We're certainly one step closer to understanding this disease. It's been very difficult to understand," said Dr. Richard Bedlack. He works at the Duke ALS Clinic and helped take part in the research.

The new gene is called TBK-1. ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurological disease that shuts down all voluntary movement and often leads to death. Bedlack says everyone has the TBK gene but ALS patients have a mutated form. Exactly what role the mutated TBK-1 plays in the disease is still not known.

"It won't be long before we understand what exactly this broken gene is doing. And then the very next step would be designing drugs to fix that problem," said Bedlack.

Bedlack says it's too early to tell if the discovery would help prevent the disease but says it could certainly help stop or slow the progress in patients. He says more genetic testing is needed, but the discovery give doctors more ammo in the fight against ALS.

"Anytime we understand this disease, better. It gives us hope that that the cure is coming sooner than we thought," said Bedlack.