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Breakthrough Discovery in Stem Cell May Lead To New ALS Treatment


New Columbia research reveals that in ALS, communication between cells called astrocytes (pictured)

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And motor neurons is “profoundly disrupted.” / Photo : Wikipedia

/ By Avner Meyrav /

Last year we wrote about an ailing rabbi diagnosed with ALS who was able to walk again after being treated with Israeli company Braistorm’s Nurown treatment.

Now, a study currently under way at the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel which incorporates the NurOwn treatment, has succeeded, for the first time, to halt the progress of ALS and even improve muscle function. The treatment is done using the patient’s own stem-cells that underwent an innovative procedure.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is considered an untreatable disease, which causes a gradual breakdown of the patients’ muscles, and leads to death within several years. Currently, there is no effective treatment for the condition, which is why this research, led by Professor Dimitri Karussis from Hadassah‘s neurological department, is major news for patients.
The treatment is being developed by Israeli company Brainstorm, which reported the successful trial to the NYSE. The development is the result of research conducted by Professor Eldad Melamed and Professor Daniel Offen of Tel Aviv University. Within weeks, the company is supposed to conclude the second phase of the trial and continue the research in the US.

“The problem with ALS and similar diseases is that groups of nerve cells degenerate and die with no way back, ” says Professor Melamed. “We don’t know why this occurs, and the treatment we all dream of is one that will stop or slow down the disease’s progression, but how can we do that without knowing the cause for the degeneration and death of the cells? So we developed a treatment that is based on the patient’s own stem cells.”

“We take them out of the bone marrow, ‘clean them’ and replicate them in very large numbers. Then we treat them with chemicals, which convert them into nerve cells, and we inject them into the spine and muscles. These nerve cells secrete a growth hormone that supports existing nerve cells, slowing down, and even halting degeneration.”

“Brainstorm’s treatment is currently in very early stages of experimentation, ” adds Efrat Karmi, CEO of IsrA.L.S. “We are familiar with the science at the basis of the treatment and the preliminary results so we can definitely say that we should go forward with the experiment and we should hope that in the future it will prove to be effective and accessible to all patients. There is more unknown than known at this point – but there’s definitely reason to be hopeful.”

To read this article in Hebrew,  click here.
Translated from Ynet

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