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Stem cells therapy may be the new treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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New treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have managed to make some great progress in a disease so far considered untreatable and fatal: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ( ALS). ALS also called motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, fasciculations and other progressive neurological deficits.

Theer are several possible causes of this  neurological disease although it is not clear why ALS occurs. It is assumed that the possible etiological factors are exposure to certain chemicals, exposure to electromagnetic fields or various traumas or electric shocks. There have been studies that have shown a link between prions (prions are abnormal proteins involved in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) and ALS or elevated glutamate (found in both serum and cerebrospinal fluid in patients with ALS). According to the ALS Association, about 5,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with this disease, and of these 50% are alive at three years after diagnosis.

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Masatoshi Suzuki, assistant professor of comparative biosciences year, and his team of researchers at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, used stem cells from adult human bone marrow and, after they genetically engineered these cells to produce growth factors to nourish damaged neurons, they transplanted them directly into the muscles of rats suffering from ALS.

Suzuki said he  turned his attention to the neuromuscular junction because it seems that this is the site where neurological damage in ALS begins. He said: “We know that the neuro-muscular junction is a site of early deterioration, and we suspected that it might be the villain in causing the nerve cell to die. It might not be an innocent victim of damage that starts elsewhere.”

In previous studies Suzuki found that injecting glial cell line-derived neurotropic factor (GDNF) at the neuromuscular junction helps neurons survive. Now the new study comes to show that vascular endothelial growth factor has a similar effect as GDNF. In this way, it was found that the delivery of vascular endothelial growth factor using stem cells improves survival and delays disease onset. The real advantage is that stem cells can generate both growth factors. Suzuki said that the combination was powerful than single growth factor in terms of disease-free time, overall survival, and sustaining muscle function, and that the results offer a new chance people with this fatal disease.  Researchers believe that replacing neurons remains a challenge, but now their goal is to keep neurons alive and health with the same growth factors that the body gives.