Advancements in stem cell research may one day help surgeons provide treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a deadly neurodegenerative disease characterized by the selective death of motor neurons.
CD133+ stem cells are known to have the capacity to differentiate into neural lineages and may provide an alternative treatment for patients suffering from ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
According to Newswise, Linda Kelley, Ph.D., director of the University of Utah’s Cell Therapy Facility, James Campanelli, Ph.D., of University of Utah spin-out Q Therapeutics, Inc., and Utah native Nicholas Maragakis, M.D., of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have teamed up to bring the cell-based therapy to the point of human clinical trials to treat this deadly disease.
In 2005, researchers at the UW-Madison inserted engineered human stem cells into the spinal cords of ALS-afflicted rats. Once inside the brain or spinal cord, neural progenitor cells grow into neuron-supporting stem cells called astrocytes. Some researchers believe that ALS causes astrocyte malfunction, which in turn causes motor neurons to degenerate and eventually die.
In 2008, scientists in the US converted skin cells from an 82-year-old woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) into stem cells that formed motor neurons with the same genetic make up as the patient.
A study released January 9, 2013 by author Stefania Corti, MD, PhD, with the University of Milan in Italy and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, found that stem cell transplantation significantly extended the lifespan of mice afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) by 20 days and improved their neuromuscular function by 15 percent.