Neural stem cell transplant may be the new treatment for amyotrofic lateral sclerosis
According to a meta-analysis based on 11 clinical trials and published in Science Translational Medicine, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a currently incurable disease, could be treated with neural stem cells.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects walking, talking, swallowing and other vital functions. No one knows exactly what triggers this debilitating and fatal disease, but there have been questioned environmental such as infections, poisonings or genetic factors (heredity).
ALS is a neurological disease characterized by degeneration and death of nerve cells in the spinal cord, leading to inability to walk and breathe. To date, there is no cure for this disease, but studies conducted at multiple institutions show that stem cell therapy may offer a chance for ALS patients. Experimental studies in rats have shown that transplantation of neural stem cells can slow the onset and the progression of ALS. Moreover, there was observed an improvement in motor and respiratory functions in mice treated as well as a longer survival.
It should be noted however that neural stem cells do not replace the degenerated nerve cells. What was found in the experiments with stem cells was just an improvement of ALS, and not a complete cure. What was also observed was that neural stem cells increased the survival rate. The research showed that the treatment increased the survival by 3-4 times in transplanted mice than untreated mice. It was also noted an improvement in motor and respiratory functions in patients with neural stem cells transplant.
It seems that the new treatment reduces inflammation and stimulates the production of factors that maintain the remaining nerve cells of the host. Yang (Ted) Teng, HMS associate professor of surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and one of the study’s co-lead authors, said this meta-analysis draws attention to the mechanisms underlying this disease and that these mechanisms should be targeted in the future therapies.
Neural stem cells are precursor cells that have the ability to renew, resulting in more stem cells, or can differentiate into nerve cells or other types of cells of the nervous system. Stem cells slow the progression of ALS by producing protective molecules that prevent the destruction of nerve cells in the spinal cord.
Stem cell therapy is one of the most promising medical treatment in the world today and is considered to be the future therapy in medicine for many diseases. However, much research is needed in order to launch a well-established treatment.