ALS Treatment

Stem cell therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a methodological approach in humans

INTRODUCTION: Recently it has been shown in animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that stem cells significantly slow the progression of the disease and prolong survival. We have evaluated the feasibility and safety of a method of intraspinal cord implantation of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in a few well‐monitored patients with ALS. 
Bone marrow collection was performed according to the standard procedure by aspiration from the posterior iliac crest. Ex vivo expansion of mesenchymal stem cells was induced according to Pittenger’s protocol. The cells were suspended in 2 ml of autologous cerebrospinal fluid and transplanted into the spinal cord by a micrometric pump injector. 
No patient manifested major adverse events such as respiratory failure or death. Minor adverse events were intercostal pain irradiation (4 patients) which was reversible after a mean period of three days after surgery, and leg sensory dysesthesia (5 patients) which was reversible after a mean period of six weeks after surgery. No modification of the spinal cord volume or other signs of abnormal cell proliferation were observed. 
CONCLUSIONS: Our results appear to demonstrate that the procedures of ex vivo expansion of autologous mesenchymal stem cells and of transplantation into the spinal cord of humans are safe and well tolerated by ALS patients.

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Stem-cell therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

With the lack of effective drug treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and compelling preclinical data, stem-cell research has highlighted this disease as a candidate for stem-cell treatment. Stem-cell transplantation is an attractive strategy for neurological diseases and early successes in animal models of neurodegnerative disease generated optimism about restoring function or delaying degeneration in human beings. The restricted potential of adult stem cells has been challenged over the past 5 years by reports on their ability to acquire new unexpected fates beyond their embryonic lineage (transdifferentiation). Therefore, autologous or allogeneic stem cells, undifferentiated or transdifferentiated and manipulated epigenetically or genetically, could be a candidate source for local or systemic cell-therapies in ALS.
Starting point
Albert Clement and colleagues (Science2003; 302: 113–17) showed that in SOD1G93A chimeric mice, motorneuron degeneration requires damage from mutant SOD1 acting in non-neuronal cells. Wild-type non-neuronal (glial) cells could delay degeneration and extend survival of mutant-expressing motorneurons. Letizia Mazzini and colleagues (Amyotroph Lateral Scler Other Motor Neuron Disord 2003; 4: 158–61) injected autologous bone-marrow-derived stem cells into the spinal cord of seven ALS patients. These investigators reported that the procedure had a reasonable margin of clinical safety. 
Where next? 
The success of cell-replacement therapy in ALS will depend a lot on preclinical evidence, because of the complexity and precision of the pattern of connectivity that needs to be restored in degenerating motoneurons. Stem-cell therapy will need to be used with other drugs or treatments, such as antioxidants and/or infusion of trophic molecules.
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Advances in stem cell therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, incurable neurodegenerative disease that targets motoneurons. Cell-based therapies have generated widespread interest as a potential therapeutic approach but no conclusive results have yet been reported either from pre-clinical or clinical studies.
Areas covered:
This is an integrated review of pre-clinical and clinical studies focused on the development of cell-based therapies for ALS. We analyze the biology of stem cell treatments and results obtained from pre-clinical models of ALS and examine the methods and the results obtained to date from clinical trials. We discuss scientific, clinical, and ethical issues and propose some directions for future studies.
Expert opinion:
While data from individual studies are encouraging, stem-cell-based therapies do not yet represent a satisfactory, reliable clinical option. The field will critically benefit from the introduction of well-designed, randomized and reproducible, powered clinical trials. Comparative studies addressing key issues such as the nature, properties, and number of donor cells, the delivery mode and the selection of proper patient populations that may benefit the most from cell-based therapies are now of the essence. Multidisciplinary networks of experts should be established to empower effective translation of research into the clinic.
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